The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to add a wide receiver in the draft, and we've mostly heard them linked to Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. But LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. would be a very good option after an explosive junior season with 57 catches for a ridiculous 1,117 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Why he's a realistic option
He's almost certain to be available at number seven, as he's generally seen as the third receiver in the draft and has not been projected to be picked before the Buccaneers are on the clock in any mock draft I've seen. That means he'll be available, but it also means he's likely to be seen as a reach.
But Odell Beckham Jr. is arguably a more logical choice than Mike Evans. His speed and explosiveness provides a different dimension from Vincent Jackson, which would help make the Bucs less one-dimensional. In addition, I've seen him ahead of Mike Evans on several draft boards -- most notably Greg Cosell's.
Why he fits the Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have noted that they want to get speed at every position, and that they want to build their offense around speed in space. Odell Beckham Jr. fits that description: he's explosive, has straight-line speed, can make people miss after the catch, he's a solid route runner and he has excellent hands overall.
He's not dominant in terms of size, but he plays bigger than he is in general -- not unlike Mike Williams' uncanny ability to make contested catches, despite being 6'1". He uses his body and long arms really well to shield the ball and find ways to make tough catches, despite some drops at times. He's a refined route runner, who has the ability to break down quickly and make very sharp cuts.
Overall, he's a perfect fit for Jeff Tedford's offense -- more so than Mike Evans, based on what we know of that offense at least. But Mike Evans is the consensus better overall player. That doesn't mean the Bucs see those receivers the same way, but some of this conflict will come down to scheme fit vs. overall quality.
What others say about him
No NFL team will be drafting Beckham because he is the most polished receiver or never drops a pass, but his ability to consistently change games with the ball in his hands is why I expect him to be a first round pick. Although he will drop an occasional pass that he should easily grab, he does not do it often and makes highlight reel catches seem routine.
What makes me, along with many scouts, get most excited about Beckham is his ability to tuck the ball away, explode up the field after the catch, and make dynamic plays when he has space to work with. Naturally instinctive running with the ball, Beckham follows blockers well, explodes through creases, has the wiggle to make tacklers miss and has the speed to out-run defenders who have the angle on him. As with most receivers, he will likely have an up-and-down rookie season as a receiver, but he will make some big plays as both a receiver and returner, which is what makes him so enticing.
As a receiver prospect, Beckham offers plenty of intrigue. He's able to play inside and outside and ran a variety of routes at LSU. Somewhat of a question early in his career, Beckham worked diligently to improve his hands, and it paid off last season. Beckham is poised to be a first-round pick in the draft, and is able to make a difference immediately.
"In an ideal world, you've got a guy like Odell Beckham who could easily fit that role. Beckham is terrific. He really is a smooth, fluid athlete with quickness, with speed, really good run after catch, he has really good hands. He knows how to run routes at this point, which is usually rare for a college wide receiver.
"He can do a lot of things in a Chip Kelly offense. He was also willing to block. He blew up Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley this year; last year he blew up another Alabama linebacker. He is willing to block. Overall, he is a quick, polished, dynamic, versatile wideout with explosive traits both as a route-runner and run after catch. He would absolutely fit a Chip Kelly offense."
Like Greg Jennings, Isaac Bruce, or Tim Brown, Beckham is an average-size receiver who possesses the athleticism, toughness, technique, and savvy to play bigger than his measurements.
It's why he's a favorite of mine in this draft class even if his alumni haven't shined as brightly in the NFL as some anticipated.