GIANTS NOTEBOOK: BIG BLUE GOES FAST IN FIRST ROUND
By Michael Eisen
May 8, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants entered the NFL Draft hoping to add weapons that could help them put points on the board. Turns out they got three with one player.
With their first-round selection, the 12th pick overall, the Giants chose Odell Beckham, Jr., a fast and productive wide receiver and return specialist from LSU. Although he joins the Giants 10 years after Eli Manning, he already has a connection with his quarterback – they each grew up in New Orleans and attended Isidore Newman High School.
“He’s a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “You are getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There’s no way we would pass him up.”
Beckham, 5-11 and 198 pounds, was the highest-rated player remaining on the Giants’ draft board when he was selected. Reese said the Giants rated him among their top 10 players.
“He has great speed, he’s polished, he’s talented, he has big hands, he has played at the top of the level in college football,” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “His head coach (Les Miles) speaks very, very highly of him as a worker in addition, as a great example to the other receivers so we felt like this is someone who would help us a great deal to put the ball in the end zone, be a guy that we can count on to help us score some points, be another weapon that we can utilize as a wide receiver but in addition we can certainly feature him in the kicking game as well.
“We think he’s by far the most versatile receiver in the draft,” said Marc Ross, the Giants’ vice president of player evaluation. “He can make explosive plays in a variety of ways – receiving, punt returns, kick returns. He’s polished, smart, great work ethic, so he just fit all the criteria that we look for.”
Beckham called being drafted by the Giants an “overwhelming experience.” But he agrees with the members of the team’s hierarchy who say he can be an immediate and versatile contributor.
“I definitely think that I can come in and, if I get the opportunity to play, I could bring a lot of things – a deep threat or whatever the team needs me to do,” Beckham said. “Hopefully, I get to return some punts and kicks.”
Beckham becomes another key component in an overhaul of the Giants’ offense that commenced after the unit finished the 2013 season ranked 28th in the NFL. The team has a new offensive coordinator in former Green Bay assistant Ben McAdoo and signed four veteran offensive linemen, a running back (Rashad Jennings) and wide receiver (Mario Manningham) as part of the reconstruction.
“Obviously, we did some work in the offensive line in the free agency period, but you look at your roster and you think in terms of how can we put ourselves in position again to be a high-scoring team?” Coughlin said. “The good thing I would think as an offensive player coming in here is our veterans have a three-week head start on the rookies, which is not much in learning a new system. I think for a young man of Odell’s skill and his level of intelligence that he will pick this up relatively quickly.”
Beckham entered the draft after his junior season. In three years with the Tigers he played in 40 games with 34 starts and caught 143 passes for 2,340 yards (16.4-yard avg.) and 12 touchdowns. He also averaged 24.9 yards on 42 kickoff returns and 9.0 yards on 62 punt returns, including two for scores.
“Anytime you pick a guy at 12 you expect him to come in and be a contributor for you,” Reese said. “He definitely can come in and be your first punt and kick returner right out of the gate. We think that this guy is a lump-in-your-throat kind of kick and punt returner. If he gets some blocks, he can go with it. That was very attractive, because you are getting a two-for-one kind of guy.”
In his final LSU season in 2013, Beckham caught a career-high 59 passes for 1,1,52 yards, and eight touchdowns and averaged 264 yards on 32 kickoff returns and 8.9 yards on 18 punt returns.
Beckham joins a wide receiver corps that includes Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle (his former teammate at LSU), Jerrel Jernigan and Manningham.
“We are talking about the quarterback needing some help, and this guy is a weapon,” Reese said. “He needs a weapon on the outside, and Victor is more of an inside receiver. Victor can’t play outside. Rueben Randle, Jernigan, and we got Mario back, so we are trying to get the quarterback some weapons. You need weapons in this league. We think this guy is a weapon.”
Beckham is eager to play with and learn from the veteran wideouts.
“(Cruz is) one of the guys who I style my game after and who I look up to,” Beckham said. “So to be able to learn from him and the other receivers that they have is just going to be, it definitely will help me improve my game.”
He’s also enthused about being reunited with Randle.
“My big brother,” he said. “He kind of taught me the ropes when I came into LSU and now I’m back with him again. It’s pretty incredible.”
Beckham is the first wide receiver chosen by the Giants in the first round since Hakeem Nicks in 2009. He is their first ever opening-round selection from LSU (the Giants’ first choice in 2005 was LSU cornerback Corey Webster, but that was in the second round).
The Giants have selected an offensive player in the first round of the draft three consecutive years (also David Wilson and Justin Pugh), the first time that’s happened since they led their drafts with offensive players six years in a row from 1987-92 (WR Mark Ingram, T Eric Moore, C Brian Williams, RB Rodney Hampton, FB Jarrod Bunch, TE Derek Brown, who was also chosen 12th overall).
As a senior at Isidore Newman, Beckham caught 50 passes for 1,010 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was just the second receiver in school history with more than 1,000 yards in a season. The other was Cooper Manning, Eli’s oldest brother.
“I remember walking through the school and seeing his jersey, along with Peyton and the Mannings as well,” Beckham said. “Every single day it was just kind of motivation to me. I threw with them a couple times, so I know exactly what he has in store and what he has to offer. I’m really looking forward to getting back together with him.”