What’s next for Odell Beckham Jr.?

Zoltan Buday offers a comparison of Odell Beckham Jr.'s rookie season to that of other top receivers.

| 2 years ago

What’s next for Odell Beckham Jr.?


Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made the best catch of 2014, and probably the best catch most of us can remember. However, most people acknowledge that Beckham’s impressive play went far beyond that one catch. He finished as our third highest graded receiver with a grade of +20.4, despite the fact that he played the second fewest snaps among receivers in the Top 10.

It is really hard to predict what Beckham will be able to achieve in the NFL. One thing that can help us better estimate his ceiling is having a more detailed look at his fantastic rookie season. To provide context, I went back and looked at the rookie seasons of the seven top graded receivers of 2014, including Beckham.

(The seven top receivers of 2014 were: Antonio Brown (rookie season: 2010), Jordy Nelson (2008), Odell Beckham Jr. (2014), Dez Bryant (2010), Demaryius Thomas (2010), Julio Jones (2011), Calvin Johnson (2007))


Even after missing the first four weeks of the season and being less involved in his first games with the Giants, Beckham was targeted 129 times over the season. This is over ten a game, by far the most among the rookie seasons of the seven players. Julio Jones was the closest to this number, but even he was short of 100 targets as he achieved 99, an average of just 7.6 per game.

Catch rate

Despite being targeted by far the most often among the examined players, Beckham achieved the second highest catch rate with 70.5%. However, Antonio Brown, the only player who had a better rate with 77.8%, was targeted a mere 27 times as a rookie. The other five players all had catch rates between 53% and 64% with the lowest belonging to Calvin Johnson (53.9%). Some of that will be affected by role within the offense, especially in some cases being eased in as rookies, but Beckham’s mark remains impressive.

Drop Rate

Due to the varying number of catchable passes, rather than looking at the total number of drops, it is better to look at one of our own Signature Stats, the Drop Rate. Again, Brown was the best in this category as he did not drop any of the 21 catchable passes sent his way. Beckham comes in second in this ratio as well, he had two drops, which led to a drop rate of 2.2%. All the other of these now elite receivers had a drop rate of at least 8.0% with Jones and Johnson both finishing above 10.0%.

Missed tackles forced

Beckham showed off his elusiveness as well by forcing 15 missed tackles in his rookie season, the most by any of the selected wide receivers in their respective rookie campaigns. The only other player surpassing 10 was Jones with 13, while Johnson finished last in this category with just 2.

Wide Receiver Rating

Although you expect that these players stepped up and became a reliable option for their quarterbacks immediately, only three of the seven players had a Wide Receiver Rating above 100. Quarterbacks recorded a QB rating of 104.3 and 115.6 when throwing to Dez Bryant and Jones respectively in their rookie seasons, but Beckham is once again leading the group coming in at 127.6.

Yards Per Route Run

In this category Beckham is topped only by Demaryius Thomas and Brown, the only two wide receivers among the selected seven who played fewer than 400 snaps in their rookie seasons. Beckham’s 2.74 Yards Per Route Run is approximately 1 full yard better than Johnson’s and Bryant’s figure, despite the fact that the New York Giants’ wide receiver ran considerably more routes than the other two players.


Perhaps this is the category where Beckham’s isolation from the others is the most shocking and  impressive. Jordy Nelson, Jones and Bryant each had negative grades in their rookie seasons. Thomas, Brown and Johnson were graded at +1.8, +3.6 and +3.8, respectively, which are all above the average grade for a rookie first round wide receiver. Then comes Beckham with a grade of +20.4, a figure that blows the rest out of the water. Before him, Keenan Allen had the best grade for rookie receivers during the PFF era with +13.3.

beckham table

So what’s really next for Beckham? It might help to look at how these six – now elite – wide receivers progressed throughout their first five years.

The average number of times they were targeted jumped from 63 to 106 in their second season as most of them stepped up to become a true focal point of their offense. The next significant increase was seen in their fourth season when four of the six players topped 150 targets and overall they averaged 146 targets. Considering the fact that Beckham already had 129 targets in his rookie season and that there is a natural ceiling on the number of times a receiver can be targeted, we should not expect such a steep increase in Beckham’s numbers. However, staying healthy and not missing any games can certainly help him exceed 150 targets in his second season already.

The average Yards per Route Run of the six receivers gradually went up from 2.08 in their rookie season to 2.48 by their fifth season, which is still considerably less than Beckham’s 2.74. It may be surprising that throughout their careers Johnson, Bryant and Jones haven’t once exceeded the 2.74 YPRR figure. Again, it is hard to imagine that in this category Beckham could progress from his rookie year similarly as the other players have done. However, if he does so, he can easily reach the 3.0 YPRR milestone, a mark beaten just three times during the PFF era among heavily targeted players.

Finally, let’s look at the grades. The selected receivers’ average grade slowly increased from the +0.5 they achieved in their rookie season. Similar to the amount of targets, the big jump came in their fourth season when the average grade increased from +5.9 to +14.5, further increasing to +20.1 in their fifth season. Yet again, Beckham topped this number in his rookie year, from just twelve games. There is nothing to suggest that Beckham would need the three years most of the other receivers needed to get accustomed to the NFL.

Beckham’s focus needs to be not on development, but in avoiding regressing in his second season. Two of the receivers looked at (Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas) took steps back in PFF grade in their sophomore seasons and given the incredible heights Beckham hit as a rookie, it is a lot easier to step backward than to go forward. However, even if he only maintains his production in the next two years and then progresses with a similar pace to the others, he can reach a level that hasn’t been witnessed by PFF yet.



  • NYC Craig

    I can’t wait to see ODB this upcoming season this guy has major potential.

  • brediuffd

    This years best rookie wide receiver will be Devante Parker and there will be a large distance between him and the 2nd best rookie WR. He’s going to be great.

    • Alfredo Cota

      Nah, Amari Cooper and it won’t be even close. He’ll nearly reach OBJ production and rating, mark my words.

      • JC

        Cooper will be very good but A) Derek Carr isn’t Eli Manning and B) he doesn’t have the same explosiveness as Beckham does in and out of his cuts even though he is still a superb route runner.

        • Alfredo Cota

          Derek might not be Eli, but Cooper is just as fast and explosive as Beckham.

    • DrAWNiloc

      Dorial Green-Beckham could throw his hat into the ring but he has the same problem as Amari Cooper: no QB, no offense. Thus, I’d have to go with Devante Parker. Viewed in isolation, though, Cooper is the most talented and versatile.

    • JT

      Amari Cooper is amazing….no way is there going to be a large gap between him and someone else unless he is on top.

    • Tom

      Tannehill struggles with the deep ball (it wasn’t all on Wallace). Also, with Landry in the slot and Stills taking some targets deep — Parker a) won’t be getting as many targets as people think and b) won’t be high quality targets. He will make a few big plays but it might be an underwhelming rookie season. DGB faces a logjam at WR in TEN as well. Cooper has a clear path to relevance along with White. If those two aren’t 1 and 2, I’ll be surprised. Perriman could give them a run as well because of his immediate involvement.

  • Johnathen Adair

    I think OBJ is great and fun to watch, but I’m thinking his fast start has as much to do with the recent rule changes, as his talent. Something PFF doesn’t even make note of in this article.

    • JC

      I don’t think that’s very true, otherwise every other receiver would have comparable and out of this world type stats, right?

    • Chris Johnson

      Really the rule changes….ok I guess the rule.changes allow.him to run the best routes and have the best hands and just break defenses ankles and blow by them to be open. This wasn’t 1975 before he got into league. The rule.chamges.affect eveyone. So his numbers in proportion to the best wrs in the game were second to brown with 108 yrds a game. So your point is nonsense. What the rule changes have done is allow more.passing without a question and it’s been like this for years not like the first year was last season. They call the game.fairly.close.to the way it was called.10 years ago after the Patriots dbs mauled the indy wrs and the became much more strict with the 5 yrd chuck rule. If you think rule.changes were why he had good year I hope your blind and just listen to game because you must not have watched any of his games. And if the rule.changes are such a.huge thing why isn’t every great wr going for 2000 yrds every year???? Noone was over 1700 laat.season moron. More players are catching 1000 yrds like 2.maybe 3 guys on one team that is the difference in the game.the last 5 years.

  • Sam Doohan

    I’m not sure if I’m completely right, but isn’t ODB the only one of these guys that was a de facto number 1 receiver the moment he took the field while the others were more limited in their offenses? Even the other ‘once in a generation’ guys started slow to learn their roles while ODB hit the ground running. That doesn’t make him less amazing of a player, just that less of a fair comparison here.

    When the QB throws to you that gives you more chances to make catches, break tackles and rack up stats. While PFF’s numbers try to resist this, clearly no WR would ever be graded at +20 for running perfect routes but never getting a single reception. When you get the ball you have the chance to stand out. When you don’t you don’t.

    Again, ODB is amazing. He’s going to have an amazing career. But you need to look at him in context, not just against rookies who hadn’t yet earned their no 1 spot. He still compares favorably to these blue chip veterans today – that’s the amazing thing.

    Comparing him to a rookie Antonio Brown (who was a no 3 on his team), it’s not really shocking that ODB looks like a god.

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  • Mike Parrott

    What’s interesting is, the rookie stats Odell put up are very close to one rookie WR: his teammate Victor Cruz in 2011. Cruz also didn’t break out until October. Then, dominated targets, yards and TD’s after. (though, he wasn’t quite as efficient in receptions and completion percentage as Odell.)

    Cruz regressed significantly in 2012. (though no shame in an 86/1,092/10 line; but still well off the pace he set the last 10 weeks of 2011) Now, the question will be will Odell similarly regress; and, if so, how much?

    And, how much would Cruz’ return (albeit possibly not at the same level off that devastating injury) affect OBJ’s stats as well?

    • Chris Johnson

      First of all.it wasn’t Victors.rookie season he was 25 was hurt the year before. And Victors game was.always reliant on an outside threat ie; Hakeem Nicks to.have his best seasons.Even Cruz always admitted.that during those years Nicks was the better player and was hugely impotent to his sucess. When Nicks declined Cruz was.forced to make run alot of short routes and was getting more attention and was.limited.to his slot wr.skills. Odell is better in every way compared to victor and I love Vic but except strength which is close but victor is a.fire plug.Odell.is much more versatile faster quicker and has better leaping ability,vody control, hands do I need to go on. Victor comes back he will.make this offense very very scary assuming he is atleast.90% what he was.