Fans of the New York Giants know that wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is good — really, really good. How good has been a matter of debate, but he is generally ranked among the top three or four wide receivers in the NFL, ranked among elite talents like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green.
Daniel Jeremiah, former NFL scout and current talent evaluator for the NFL Network, has made the bold statement that Beckham will be the best receiver in the NFL in 2018.
On his “Move The Sticks” podcast with Bucky Brooks, Jeremiah said that Beckham will finally surpass Julio Jones and Antonio Brown at the top of the receiver rankings. Jeremiah said,
“This is what I expect for this year: We’re going to be watching the ‘Odell Beckham show with the New York Giants. If he stays healthy for a full season, he’s going to pair up with Eli Manning and you’re going to see a monster year. What’s a ‘monster year’? I’m talking 17, 18 touchdown-type season from Odell Beckham. He’s going to be the best wide receiver in the NFL.
Buck, I talked to everybody who has watched him work out in the offseason, they said that he’s taken his game — which when he’s been out there has been elite — he’s taken it to another level, and we’re going to see it this year.”
For his part, rookie running back Saquon Barkley — who is a pretty darn good receiver in his own right — agreed with Jeremiah.
“That guy is very impressive,” Barkley said. “I would say he’s, in my opinion, the best wide receiver in the league and if not, one of the best players in the league.”
Why would Jeremiah put Beckham in the rarified air of scoring 17 or more touchdowns — putting him in the company of players like Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Cris Carter?
Part of it is his athelticism. Beckham’s rare combination of speed, agility, and explosiveness are well-known. Just look at his ability to turn a pedestrian 78-yard slant into a game-breaking play for evidence of that.
There is also his mastery of the nuance of the receiver position that let him use those physical tools to devastating effect. That mastery of his craft is what sets Beckham apart, and sets him up for success in the eyes of Barkley.
He said after practice Thursday, “He ran this curl and the way he set it up and it was on Slay, who’s a very, very good corner too and seeing those guys go at it all week was very impressive. The way he just sells his routes, his speed. Obviously he didn’t get to show what he was able to do after the catch, but we all know what he’s able to do after the catch.”
Coming off of a season derailed by injury, Beckham is finally getting back to full health and full speed, and showing it against live competition.
“Whenever it’s time to go, it’s time to go,” Beckham said after practice Thursday. “I’m feeling pretty good, I’m feeling fast. It’s starting to come back to me, so I’m just very thankful to be where I’m at right now.”
There’s also a level of talent surrounding Beckham which he has never enjoyed before. The first two years of his career, the Giants hoped to pair Beckham with Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle to form a “pick your poison” offense. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition, as first Beckham, then Cruz were injured, and Randle declined each of his four seasons with the Giants. Now, defenses will have to contend with not only Beckham, but match-up nightmares in Evan Engram as a hybrid tight end and Saquon Barkley — both of whom are elite athletes.
Finally, there’s the Shurmur factor.
In naming his biggest “snub” to Jeremiah’s top five list, Bucky Brooks picks Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen. The fact that Thielen played, and excelled in, Shurmur’s offense should be instructive. Looking at Thielen’s history, he had all of 20 catches for 281 yards and 1 touchdown in his first 32 games. But once Norv Turner resigned as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator in 2016, Thielen, as well as Stefon Diggs, saw marked jumps in production and efficiency. Shurmur uses them interchangeably, moving them around the offensive formation and putting them in position to use their route running and abilities after the catch to generate big plays.
It’s little wonder why Beckham tweeted his excitement after Shurmur was hired.
God really works in mysterious ways....let the journey begin.... I’m geeeked https://t.co/3tbOTPcSl1— Odell Beckham Jr (@OBJ_3) January 15, 2018
So then, did Jeremiah go overboard predicting a “monster season” for Beckham? Skeptics might point to the plethora of receiving targets — Engram, Barkley, Sterling Shepard, even Cody Latimer and Wayne Gallaman — as potential drains on Beckham’s market share. And if he isn’t getting the ball as often, wouldn’t that decrease the likelihood of him making a big play?
Well, it might just work out that even if he isn’t the sole focus of the offense (as under Ben McAdoo), the scheme and talent might let him make better use of the opportunities he does get.
In previous years, the Giants’ offense was “Odell and a prayer”. But if Jeremiah is right, a more diverse offense, with a more mature and experienced Beckham who is better able to focus the passion that gives him his edge, could just make for a monster season.