Over the last few seasons, the Giants have greatly benefited from the presence of Victor Cruz as a speed slot receiver. Cruz, in fact, has helped to define that position in recent years, and with Hakeem Nicks out of the picture as the team's primary outside guy, it was time to get more speed in the building to help the offense out. Picking LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th overall selection gives Eli Manning a new target who can move from the slot to outside and back with equal skill.
Strengths: Beckham can excel either outside or in the slot, and his primary attribute is his pure game-breaking speed. In the slot, he drives off the snap with quickness from the first step and can simply outrun safeties to his assigned area. Forces defenses to assign a deep defender and can take the top off a coverage. On the outside, Beckham moves smoothly downfield on routes to the sideline and the numbers, and he exhibits terrific change-of-direction skills. In addition, Beckham has an innate understanding of route concepts that will help him greatly at the NFL level — he has outstanding body control, looks the ball into his hands, gets open in small spaces and is elusive enough to juke defenders who try to grab him after the catch. And if he gets past those defenders, it’s off to the races again.
Kills defenses with comebacks and curls. Can take quick slants and bubble screens upfield in a hurry — he’ll be a great yards-after-catch asset at the next level. Dynamic return man who will change direction and doesn’t need much of an opening to make a big play or take it to the house.
Weaknesses: Beckham’s only real limitations are related to his size — he won’t win a lot of jump-ball battles, he’s not a physical blocker, and though he’s tough in traffic, it’s possible that he’ll be limited by bigger and more physical cornerbacks at the NFL level. Though he’s improved a great deal in his command of the little things, he will occasionally regress and miss a ball he should have caught. However, this isn’t the issue it used to be, and Beckham’s clear tendency to work hard and improve will serve him well when coverages get more complex.
In 2013, with first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron running a more expansive passing game, Beckham caught 57 passes for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns. At the scouting combine drills, I was specifically impressed with his ability among all the receivers in his group to grasp and show that he’s a complete receiver and not just a guy who runs fast in a straight line. There shouldn’t be any problem when he is asked to do the same for the Giants. This is a major win for a team in need of new weapons.
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