A large force behind labeling 2014 as one of the deepest NFL draft classes in recent memory is the extent of talent at the wide receiver position. Even as a guy whose mock draft would be considered a bit lofty with seven receivers taken in the first round (Mock Draft coming soon), there’s still plenty of skilled pass-catchers beyond the top-32.
There are different types of receivers of course and not every team is after the same variety. While some may covet a lengthy field-stretcher, another may have a speedy slot guy that tickles their fancy. Despite type, I believe there’s three receiver prospects who standout amongst the group, all deserving of top-10 attention.
Getting the most attention are Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. While Watkins is widely regarded as this year’s top receiver, demonstrating explosiveness, speed and raw ability, Evans is the lengthy vertical threat who makes a hobby out of bullying smaller defensive backs.
Then, standing quietly in the background is LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., who complements his deceiving speed with smoothness and offers some of the most reliable hands of the class.
Beckham improved in each of his three years at LSU, increasing from 475 receiving yards as a freshman, to 713 yards as a sophomore and then exploding onto the scene last season with 1,117 yards to go along with eight touchdowns.[ad id=”Ad1″]
Oddly enough – and to further attest to this class’ depth – Beckham wasn’t even the top receiver on his own team, as Jarvis Landry pulled in 77 catches for 1,193 and 10 scores. Still, Odell Beckham was the game-breaker. His 19.6 yards per catch average was good for second among receivers in the nation with at least 50 receptions, trailing only Mike Evans’ 20.2 average.
However, just as easily as Beckham can get behind a secondary, the 5’11”, 198-pound receiver’s intelligent route running works throughout the entire tree. Because of his acceleration and vision, Beckham has the ability to earn yards after the catch by turning a shallow cross into a long score. It’s that sort of versatility that can make a receiver like Beckham his quarterback’s new favorite target.
Early Fantasy Insight
With no real concern regarding ODell Beckham’s skill set or ability to make the NFL leap, what team drafts him and how he fits in with a specific offense will ultimately gauge his potential as a rookie.
Safely assuming that Watkins and Evans are both drafted prior, the earliest spot we’d likely see Beckham taken is at number 13 to St. Louis. Whether the Rams have quarterback Sam Bradford in their long-term plans or not, whoever is throwing passes in St. Louis can use help at receiver. Assembling a trio of Beckham, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick would make for a young receiving corps with plenty of potential.
Another top-20 team in need of a receiver is the New York Jets. Veteran Santonio Holmes is likely on his way out and head coach Rex Ryan needs to improve his young quarterback’s surrounding arsenal. Not to mention, Odell Beckham to the Jets makes for an even more intriguing case if recent reports regarding the team’s skepticism of Stephen Hill are true.
Once out of the top-20, teams like Kansas City and Carolina could both afford to draft a safe receiver prospect in the first round with the Number 23 and 28 pick, respectively. Outside of Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs are thin at the receiver position. The Panthers need to reinforce Cam Newton’s receiving threats, especially if veteran Steve Smith doesn’t return next season.
If he happens to make it to the end of the first round, both San Francisco and Seattle would be friendly landing places for Odell Beckham as well. Despite competing for NFC Championships, neither team’s wide receiver group packs a threatening punch.
Work to Do After the Combine
Beckham completed one of the more impressive workouts in Indianapolis last month, making the receiver’s road to the draft a bit easier moving forward. Then again, Beckham showing out at LSU’s Pro Day on April 9th certainly wouldn’t hurt. While his current draft stock puts him in the first round, improving on an already impressive 4.43 40-yard dash could help cement it.
In my first mock draft of the year, I have Odell Beckham going to the Rams at No. 13. In terms of fantasy outlook, Beckham landing in St. Louis, New York, Kansas City, Carolina or Seattle would all be profitable situations for the rookie.
While Beckham holds most upside in dynasty formats, he’s no benchwarmer in redraft leagues. Assuming one of the above-mentioned teams lands Beckham in the first round, he’ll receive a fair chance to contribute early on, both as a receiver and special teamer.[ad id=”Ad2″]