INDIANAPOLIS -- Just as it was for the media on Friday, the arrival of the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers at the scouting combine signified prime time. And on Sunday (the last day of media availability), a handful of wretched and tired scribes were allowed to head in and watch the field drills, as quarterbacks threw to recievers. The first of two groups featured most of the big-name quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, A.J. McCarron), though only Bortles and McCarron threw from that list.
More interesting to me was the first alphabetical half of a receiver group that's as deep as any I've seen in recent years, and I wanted to watch LSU speedster Odell Beckham, Jr. above all. To say the least, he didn't disappoint. After running unofficial 40-yard dashes timed anywhere from 4.31 to 4.40, Beckham went out and showed that he has many of the attributes that the NFL requires of its smaller, faster receivers.
Overall, the thing that impressed me most about Beckham in these drills was that he's very comfortable with his speed. Not only is he track and field-fast, he also glides through routes and catches the ball with confidence. On the gauntlet drill, he ran through and caught everything, keeping his feet on the line all the way through. A lot of receivers weave through (Mike Evans had an issue with this), but Beckham stayed with his speed. He's compact in his movements and doesn't shoot out of line. This matches up with his game tape -- even when he's creating explosive plays, he's consistent with his movements.
Beckham looked pretty good on the six-yard slant, making a quick in-cut to catch the ball. But on the 10-yard out to the left, he rounded his cut a bit, though he caught the ball. The 17-yard in-and-up was a bit more of an adventure -- Beckham was a bit slow in his break off the line, and he rolled through the second pylon. And if there's one thing I'd say he needs to work on, it's the consistent ability to cut and keep with a quarterback's timing. On deep routes with fewer angles, Beckham was in his element - fluid off the snap and great acceleration up the field. Moreover, that speed is consistent, meaning that quarterbacks can time him with confidence. And I believe that's one of the more underrated attributes a receiver can have. He adjusted to his right and left on deeper routes to grab passes that were a bit off, and you love to see a player who can bail his quarterback out. Again, that's consistent with his LSU tape.
Beckham was slightly choppy on the 12-yard curl, but he was clearly trying to be better with his cuts there, and he was okay. He ran through nicely and sank his hips into the breaks. The final route was a deep post corner, where the receiver starts at the 15-yard line, cuts in at the 26, out at the 34, and bends the route to about the 50-yard line. He sat in his breaks (adjusted to cut momentum) very well here and made another nice adjustment to catch the ball.
I had Beckham 19th on my pre-combine Big Board, but with the benefit of more game tape, and the ability to see him up close, I wouldn't have any problem with a team taking him in the top 15. He's a special talent with room at the top of his game for improvement at the NFL level.
Other receiver notes:
-- Brandon Coleman from Rutgers was smooth in the gauntlet. Not especially fast, but he moved through well and showed good technique with the timing that drill requires. He was fluid through his cuts and high-pointed the ball well.
-- Louisville's Damian Copeland got into an early habit of body-catching in his first gauntlet, but worked that out in the second one. He's aggressively fast.
-- Texas A&M's Mike Evans tended to weave in and out of line on the gauntlet, though he caught the ball well. Evans said that his best route in college was the vertical one, and that was very evident in drills. He moved to catch an errant throw in the slant, but struggled with keeping himself in line on others. The post corner saw him looking a bit lost -- he is still struggling with transitions when asked to cut and move in exact ways. I've seen some comparisons to Vincent Jackson, and I see that at times on Evans' tape, but in a general sense, I think he's a bit slower, and he really slows down when he's not running in a straight line.
-- New Mexico State's Austin Franklin dropped the middle three passes in his first gauntlet, but he did a nice job of adjusting to his left to make a catch on a deeper route. Overall, he showed nice cuts, but he was a bit slow to the ball.
-- Oregon State's Brandin Cooks had some of the nicer cuts in the first session, especially on the 17-yard in-and-up. Choppy at times, but high-pointed the ball. On the curl, he seemed to focus too much on the cuts to grab the throw.
-- John Brown of Pittsburgh State was very smooth in the gauntlet -- very good hands. He cut too early on the slant, though.
-- Michigan's Jeremy Gallon catches the ball low and fast -- he looks almost like a running back at times. There's a bit of Golden Tate in his overall look as a player. I loved how he didn't let errant throws slow him down in the gauntlet. He was slow to the ball on the deep up-and-in, though. He was textbook from start to finish on the 10-yard up-and-out to the right -- ran a clean route and caught the ball well. He staggered slightly after the second pylon on the curl, but recovered nicely, and that recovery speed is something that also shows up on tape.
-- Coastal Carolina's Charles Hazel was strong and smooth in the quick slant, though he had some issues staying upright on later cuts.
Though I was watching receivers for the most part, I thought that UCF quarterback Blake Bortles did a good job of showing that he can make just about every throw -- he was the most consistent of the quarterbacks in that regard. There's a slight issue with how he opens his body to throw that reminds me of Josh Freeman, and that will have to be sorted out sooner than later. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Alabama's A.J. McCarron is pretty much what people think he is -- he's got what I would call a "box of excellence" that goes out to the numbers on both sides (but absolutely no further) and about 30 yards upfield. McCarron has said that he can throw the ball 65 yards, but I still haven't seen him to it consistently, accurately and well -- either on tape, or in these drills.