New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is just seven games into his NFL career, but he’s already making the 11 teams that passed on him in the 2014 NFL Draft look foolish. The 22-year-old LSU product’s limitless potential was on full display during a virtuoso 10-catch, 146-yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday that catapulted him to the forefront of the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation.
Beckham punctuated his career night with a catch that NBC football analyst and four-time All-Pro wide receiver Cris Collinsworth dubbed “[possibly] the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in my life.” Shrugging off obvious pass interference from Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, a sprawling Beckham made a one-handed catch on an Eli Manning deep ball and kept both feet in bounds for a touchdown. Subsequent replays revealed that Beckham managed to secure the pass with just three fingers.
It was the sort of absurdly athletic catch that Giants fans have already come to expect from Beckham, who missed most of the preseason and the first four weeks of the 2014 regular season with a nagging hamstring injury. Thrust into a major offensive role after a season-ending injury to Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in Week 6, Beckham has delivered. Over the last four weeks, he’s averaged nearly eight catches and 125 yards per game, stats that are more reminiscent of a veteran No. 1 receiver than a player fresh out of college. Through Week 12, he has 41 catches for 609 yards and five touchdowns.
Beckham is a top contender for 2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but was just the third wide receiver and the eighth offensive player selected in this year’s draft – a fact that several of the 11 teams who drafted ahead of the Giants may rue for years to come. Here’s a look at how the 11 players selected ahead of Beckham have performed so far this season.
No. 1 – Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, Houston Texans: Clowney was considered to be a generational pass-rushing talent ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft, but a knee injury has limited him to just four games this season. The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder has yet to record a single sack. Clowney admitted Sunday that the injury is “holding [him] back,” NFL.com reports.
No.2 – Greg Robinson, offensive tackle, St. Louis Rams: Robinson didn’t crack the Rams’ starting offensive line until Week 6, when he took over at left guard. By Oct. 26, he had shifted over to left tackle to replace injured veteran Jake Long. Robinson has endured some early struggles, but it’s too soon to say if he will live up to his second-overall draft placement.
No.3 – Blake Bortles, quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars: The first quarterback selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bortles has dealt with typical rookie quarterback growing pains. In nine starts, he has thrown for 2,067 yards and just eight touchdown passes against 15 interceptions. The Jaguars are 1-10.
No. 4 – Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills: Like Beckham, Watkins has enjoyed tremendous success in his rookie season. Through 10 games, Watkins has amassed 45 receptions for 649 yards and five touchdowns. Moreover, he has already established himself as Buffalo’s go-to receiver – his 84 targets is far and away the most received by a Bills receiver this season.
No. 5 – Khalil Mack, linebacker, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders’ freakishly athletic linebacker has been solid this season, with 59 combined tackles through his first 11 NFL games. However, his premature celebration against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12 nearly cost Oakland its first win of the 2014 season.
No. 6 – Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Atlanta Falcons: Matthews impressed Falcons coaches during the preseason, but a lingering high-ankle sprain has limited his effectiveness during his rookie campaign. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 23 times this season, 11th-most among NFL quarterbacks.
No. 7 – Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans’ emergence has a top receiving threat has lessened the blow the Buccaneers might have felt over missing out on Beckham. The seventh overall draft pick has 49 catches and leads all rookies with 841 receiving yards. He also has six touchdowns over his last four games, more than any other receiver in the NFL.
No. 8 – Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Cleveland Browns: Gilbert has struggled mightily for the Browns this season. He didn’t play a single snap during Cleveland’s Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans and was listed as the team’s No. 4 cornerback behind undrafted fellow rookie K’Waun Williams, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
No. 9 – Anthony Barr, linebacker, Minnesota Vikings: Barr has meshed well with the Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s aggressive defensive scheme, recording four sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles so far this season. However, Beckham has more receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns than any Vikings player – and he’s played just seven games.
No. 10 – Eric Ebron, tight end, Detroit Lions: Ebron has yet to find his identity in Detroit’s high-powered offense, and failed to assert himself while top receiver Calvin Johnson missed several weeks with a severe high ankle sprain. Ebron has just 16 catches for 148 yards this season.
No. 11 – Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Tennessee Titans: It’s been an eventful season for Lewan, who has started six games for the Titans this season. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges on Oct. 30 in connection with an incident that occurred during his time at the University of Michigan. Lewan was carted off the field with an ankle injury during the Titans’ Week 12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, The Tennessean reports.