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Reception Perception: Odell Beckham Jr. Coming Out of Nowhere

Matt Harmon uses his Reception Perception methodology to take a look at the emerging rookie, Odell Beckham Jr.

Here at Football Guys, I’ll use my methodology for evaluating wide receivers, Reception Perception, in order to look for clues about a wide receiver’s fantasy value. We’ll examine players to buy or sell, and check in on the progress of young dynasty assets. In this edition, we’ll use some data to look in on Odell Beckham Jr.’s young rookie season.

When the Giants took Odell Beckham Jr. at the twelfth spot in May’s draft, it was not clear what kind of situation he was headed for. The Giants had Victor Cruz to play a presumably similar role, and Rueben Randle around. Eli Manning was learning a new offense, and appeared in a sharp decline. When Beckham struggled to return to the practice field due to a hamstring injury, and drew the ire of head coach Tom Coughlin in the process, a lost rookie year seemed inevitable. Beckham sat out the first four games of the regular season, and the nails were readied for his coffin.

You can put the hammer and nails back in the toolbox, because Beckham has been a revelation for the Giants. He’s scored three touchdowns in as many games. In some cases, receivers take awhile to get going, but Beckham has hit the ground running. It’s almost unthinkable that he looks so much like a professional after next to no practice time since being drafted.

Headed into his Week 8 bye, Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off a multiple touchdown game. Yet, he has not topped 50 receiving yards in any of his three outings. What should fantasy owners expect from him going forward? Is his fantasy production sustainable, despite his low target and yardage numbers? His Reception Perception numbers from Week 7 helps us sift for clues. 

Alignment Data

In the current iteration of the Giants’ offense, Odell Beckham is most often playing the flanker position. He lines up on the right side of the field, and behind the line of scrimmage on most of his snaps. The alignment data answers a question many had about Beckham after Victor Cruz went down. With similar dimensions and quickness, there was an assumption Beckham could step into Cruz’s role. Instead, Beckham appears to be carving out his own place. He only took 7.6% of his snaps in the slot in Week 7. Beckham’s size sees him profiled as a slot receiver. When you watch him, and take a gander at these numbers, you see he is a more of a versatile player. Beckham can function in the slot with ease, but is a fine player on the perimeter. 

The question will be target dispersion. Rueben Randle sees a lot of footballs go his way playing the X-receiver spot. Larry Donnell can absorb looks on his good weeks, as well. Beckham’s role still looks more than profitable enough, as he saw seven targets in Week 7:

This data is a bit of a back and forth. On one hand, the targets on 19.4% of routes figure is the lowest of all Reception Perception receivers we’ve tested this season, outside of Torrey Smith in Week 1. If the ball is going elsewhere 70.6% of the time when Beckham is running routes, he could have a few down weeks. On the positive side, Beckham does generally make good on his targets. We had similar worries about inconsistency with Andre Holmes in last week’s column. But Beckham’s catches on 11.1% of his routes run is easier to digest than Holmes’ 8.1%. Beckham only caught 57.1% of his targets, but that is slightly misleading. A few passes were out of reach, and one incompletion was the result of a defensive pass interference penalty. All numbers, even Reception Perception’s can require context. Give Odell Beckham a fair shot at the ball, and he’s a good bet to come down with it. 

Route Analysis

 

Odell Beckham boasts a fairly balanced route tree, which makes sense given his skillset. The former LSU Tiger has the speed to run down the field, the quickness to gain separation in breaks and the physical mentality to handle the gritty work. There is not an area of the field where Beckham doesn’t perform adequately. Dave Gettleman, general manager of the Carolina Panthers, called Beckham far and away the best route runner in this class—despite not working for the team that drafted the player. The elder GM was correct, and those skills translated to the pros.

Through most Reception Perception studies, we’ve seen the vertical route be the most frequently run. With Beckham, that is not the case. His slant routes were run far more than any other. This also makes sense, given the offense the Giants now run and Beckham’s scouting report. These sort of routes will set him up to make plays in the open field, and rack up receptions for PPR leagues.

(SRVC denotes success rate versus coverage for each route. PTS indicates how many PPR fantasy points a receiver earned on each particular route) 

This is really strong work by Odell Beckham Jr. on the route result chart. All of his SRVC scores came in at least 50%, while four came in at 100%.

Three segments, in particular, must be highlighted. Beckham posted a SRVC rating of 60% on his nine routes. While he did not score any fantasy points on verticals in Week 7, he has the skills to create big plays over the top. The comeback might be Beckham’s best route. He has an uncanny ability, for a rookie three games into his career, to set up a cornerback and get them turned around. Several times he would dust corners on his breaks back to the ball; gaining miles of separation. Lastly, Beckham posted a nice 88.9% SRVC figure on the slant route; his most frequently ran in Week 7. He’s doing his job, and doing it well. Those routes will continually be assigned to Beckham, and his SRVC score shows he will do well with them.

The SRVC scores give credence to the idea that Odell Beckham can excel anywhere on the football field. He got open on multiple levels, and against varying coverage:

Being relatively scientific is the goal with Reception Perception here, but changing tones for a moment. An 81.5% success rate against man coverage for Odell Beckham Jr. is just ridiculous. This is a player who’s training camp, preseason and first four weeks of the season were a total wash. Yet, he is tearing up NFL defenders in just his third game. He has not hit that 50-yard mark yet, but there is every reason to expect he will soon top it many times over. 

Going Forward

The 2014 NFL Draft class was talked up as one of the best receiver groups of all time. The rookies have lived up to the billing. Kelvin Benjamin has been an every week starter all season, and now Sammy Watkins joins him, since the Bills upgraded behind center. Allen Robinson has established a pretty safe PPR floor, while Brandin Cooks, Allen Hurns, Mike Evans and Jordan Matthews have all had usable weeks. We are not even half way through the season yet, and you already feel great about this class. Odell Beckham Jr. came in behind the curve, but has zoomed right past the latter three names. Beckham does not have the every week appeal of a Benjamin or Watkins, but he may approach a tier below their value soon.

Beckham’s SRVC scores give you great hope we are just seeing the peak of his talent. The pendulum will begin to swing his way even more with Victor Cruz out of the mix, and Randle looking like just a serviceable starter. The rookie could be the top option in the New York passing game by season’s end. The one attribute that none of the Reception Perception numbers could shed praise on was his scoring ability. His three touchdowns in three games are no fluke. Despite being less than six-feet tall, Beckham is a maven in the red zone. He can outleap bigger players, and box them out. He’ll win nearly any contested ball thrown his way. Beckham’s first touchdown, against the Falcons, was a catch those that watched him in college saw him make on repeat. All of his NFL scores have come from inside the end zone. He breaks any size rule out there, and the touchdowns will continue to come.

All of the Reception Perception data indicates a steep upward trajectory for Beckham, even if the target data preaches some caution. WR3 value the rest of the way seems like a given, and WR2 might not be out of the question if the touchdowns continue to rain down. The Giants have a good offense, and Beckham is, at worst, their second option as a receiver. We are only three games into his career, but it’s hard to think this player will not turn into a great fantasy asset; which is crazy when you consider the tone around him just a couple of months ago. Beckham may have snuck up on you, but he is here to stay. Let’s hope it’s on your roster.