LSU has a history of sending great athletes to the NFL, but their wide receivers haven't always had the most success. Juniors Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will be looking to buck that trend as high picks in May's draft.
Scouts and draftniks have differing opinions on the two, with most of them ranking the wideouts in relatively close proximity but disagreeing about who is the better prospect.
They are different players (though are more similar than many think) and bring unique things to the table. Most NFL teams would love to have either of them, but at some point one team will make the decision to take one ahead of the other.
What type of offense would they fit best into? And ultimately, which one is the better prospect? Let's break down their tape, analyze their play on the field and find some answers.
Landry hardly played at all in his freshman season, while Beckham played a lot more and had decent productive. But they have both grown a lot since then, so I'll really focus on only their sophomore and junior seasons here.
As a sophomore Landry had 56 catches for 573 yards and five scores, with a pretty low 10.2 yards-per-carry average. That same year, Beckham had 13 fewer receptions than Landry but still managed to gain 713 yards, although he had only two touchdowns.
Right away, it's evident that Beckham is more of a big-play guy. While that would hold true again in 2013, other things would change as Landry really stepped up.
Landry went off for 76 receptions and 1,193 yards with 10 receiving touchdowns and increased his YPC average all the way up to 15.5. Beckham also improved his numbers, pulling in 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight scores.
A closer look at the 2013 game-by-game breakdown, however, reveals that Beckham's stats are pretty uneven, boosted in large part by a couple of great games against bad teams.
Against the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Furman, Beckham had a total of 11 catches for 340 yards (nearly 30 percent of his yardage total for the season) and five touchdowns. He had four games with three or less catches, six games with less than 60 yards, and caught a touchdown in only four contests.
On the other hand, the only game that Landry had fewer than four catches and 58 yards was in LSU's bowl game, which was a dud for both receivers. Landry had nine games with 87 or more yards and caught a touchdown in seven different games.
While statistics only tell a portion of the story in evaluating prospects, it's clear that Landry is a much more consistent player, and that Beckham was a much more boom-or-bust receiver, which still has its merits.
But I still lean towards the side of reliability and give the advantage to Landry.
Landry is more of a possession receiver, but he is not slow by any stretch. He is pretty quick in space but is not overly agile in tight spaces. And while the YPC average over his career would suggest that he's not a burner, his acceleration and speed is underrated.
Calling him a straight-up possession receiver puts a limit on his capabilities as a football player. He definitely doesn't have elite speed, but he can certainly run.
The first play may have gotten called back for holding, which looked to be the wrong call after seeing the replay, but it still showed Landry's ability to accelerate and take off in the open field.
Landry is also pretty quick on his feet and can make guys miss, as evidenced by the second play, which is set up similarly to the prior one. The fact that LSU called multiple screens for Landry in the first place indicates the coaching staff's confidence in him as a big-play threat.
Landry is clearly a pretty quick athlete, but what really sets him apart as a wide receiver is his strength. Despite an average build at 6'1", 195 pounds, he is a physically gifted player.
On these two plays, he shows that strength in different ways. On the first, he is able to go up and bring down a tough throw from LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
He has two guys draped all over him, takes a pretty hard hit while he's going down, but still manages to outmuscle the defensive backs and hold onto the ball throughout the catch.
On the second play, Landry does more than just block the cornerback...he sticks his shoulder in and decks him. This won't surprise people who remember him on special teams as a true freshman.
Beckham is in many ways the opposite kind of athlete from Landry. Whereas Landry is very strong but still possesses underrated speed, Beckham is extremely fast yet is more physical than he gets credit for. He's exceptionally quick and able to beat guys off the line and get downfield. He can also make guys miss once he has the ball and can break away from almost anyone in the country.
On the first play, Beckham shows off his agility. He starts upfield quickly, takes a hard plant with his right foot, and then bounces forward with remarkable quickness to leave the defender flat-footed.
Then on the second play, Beckham shows off his acceleration and speed on an end-around. Like Landry, Beckham is small at 6'0", 187 pounds, but he really makes up for it with his elusiveness.
There are literally dozens of plays that make your jaw drop because Beckham is simply that fun to watch in the open field. Go check out any one of a number of highlight tapes on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.
Anyone who thinks that Beckham is weak and soft just because he's small and quick, however, isn't paying enough attention to him when he's not flying downfield making guys miss.
Beckham has underrated strength and also has shown a willingness to mix it up and get physical. On this first play of the game, LSU runs the ball to his side of the field (which is encouraging in of itself), and he takes care of his assignment in a hurry.
Both of these guys are really tremendous athletes, but Beckham is truly special and gets the nod in this category.
Landry and Beckham are pretty similar in their route-running. They are both quick, have good footwork and body control and get out of their breaks quickly.
A master in the short-to-intermediate ranges around the middle of the field, Landry has great vision and is able to run the full route tree. He's shifty and fluid in his movements and has a knack for finding holes in the secondary.
He is able to cut into the middle or out towards the sideline, plants well and comes back to the ball under control, and he is able to make fast-paced moves and head deep as well. He lined up primarily in the slot for LSU, which gave him more options as a route-runner.
Even though the ball wasn't thrown to him on the first play, it's still a nice demonstration of how Landry is able to work the middle of the field. This allowed him to pick up a ton of first downs and constantly be a reliable option for Mettenberger.
Landry's ability to plant and accelerate downfield is evident on the second play, even though the ball is overthrown. It is easy to see why an NFL team would be excited about getting a polished receiver like Landry.
Beckham is also a very good route-runner, although he's a little more one dimensional in that he uses his speed and takes most of his routes deeper than Landry.
He's able to use go routes, stop-and-go routes and post routes very effectively to get downfield, but he is also able to plant and come back to the ball when the cornerback is playing off him.
On the first play, Beckham shows how effortlessly he can slash down the field and beat his man deep. He takes off running but sets up the defender with a little fake before kicking it up another gear to blow past him. It's rare for a guy to have both that extra gear and the body control enough to shift directions while also changing speed.
Then on the second play, Beckham proves that he can take advantage of a little space as he plants his foot, comes back to the ball and makes a really strong grab above his head. NFL teams will love that willingness to work back to his quarterback to make a tough catch.
This is becoming a running theme here, but both players are impressive route-runners. The slight edge goes to Landry because of his proficiency in running the entire tree.
It's difficult to avoid hyperbole after watching Landry catch a football. His hands are so good that they are almost hard to believe.
I got to watch a good amount of Landry's film, but not every snap this season. However, Greg Peshek over at Rotoworld.com did watch every snap, and charted just two drops for Landry over the course of the year.
That is truly amazing for a wideout who is targeted as often as he was.
I know this is the catch everyone wants to see, and it is really a remarkable feat of athleticism and hand strength. It also was a bit lucky, however, and doesn't necessarily get to the crux of what makes Landry such a phenomenal pass-catcher.
He seems to have pretty big hands, and they're really strong. When he gets both hands on the ball, he will not drop it. He gets his hands out in front of him and plucks the ball instead of letting it get into his chest. He also can extend his arms fully and still have the grip to bring the ball in, which he does here on this play.
The next example may not seem particularly exciting, and won't make any highlight reels, but there are so many instances in which Landry extends his arms and plucks the ball out of the air like that. It's really an encouraging thing for a prospect to already have such great habits and strong hands, so that will undoubtedly be a big "plus" under Landry's name on scouting reports.
Beckham also has very strong hands, but he is not quite as consistent in pulling the ball in.
He is able to go up above his head really well, which he does on this play against Mississippi State. He also had a touchdown catch later in that game where he caught the ball at its highest point.
This is just one side of Beckham's aforementioned athleticism, but this facet in particular really adds a whole extra element to his game. His frame isn't that impressive, but his ability to go up strong and get the ball is.
He also plucks the ball pretty well, although his drop rate is only about average. Peshek had him charted with a 6.45 percent drop rate in 2013, which is about par for college receivers.
One of the reasons his drop total is a little higher may be due to his tendency to short-arm throws and misjudge longer passes when they aren't above him or targeted at his chest.
This play here shows Beckham pull away a little and not extend fully and getting under it. The throw isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn good. Missing a potential touchdown like this can get you in the doghouse real fast in the NFL.
Beckham also did this on another deeper ball later in the game, where he gets outmuscled a bit and then doesn't make a strong enough play on the ball, dropping the pass despite getting both hands on it cleanly.
It's hard to know exactly what causes these lapses, but they're something Beckham must work on avoiding at the next level.
While it isn't necessarily a knock on Beckham, Landry wins this category by an absolute landslide.
Beckham takes the cake here, and it's not really close. Landry's versatility is that he is a threat all over the field and can line up anywhere.
But that isn't anywhere near what Beckham brings to the table. In addition to being being a big-play receiver, the junior also returned kickoffs, punts, and took some handoffs as well.
We already saw what he can do on an end-around, but his speed as a returner is even more impressive. He's not only got straight-ahead speed, but he is elusive as well.
And while everyone will be talking forever about Chris Davis's big field-goal-attempt return for a touchdown from the Iron Bowl, Beckham did it before him and looked even faster.
Beckham has the kind of speed and big-play ability that makes NFL teams salivate. He'll be able to get used in a number of different, creative ways, and you can't help but be reminded of Percy Harvin a little when you watch him on the field.
Comparison and Projections
These two are really hard to project because the wide receiver class in this draft is really deep. It's even harder to compare the two because they're both such talented players.
But I have to give the nod to Landry because of his ability as a pure pass-catcher and route-runner. Those are the kinds of things that will make him productive in the NFL right away.
In my most recent Big Board, I have Landry ranked as the No. 34 overall prospect and sixth-best wide receiver, with Beckham at No. 45 overall and the seventh-ranked receiver.
They both have the potential to jump up more in the rankings if they put in good a combine and pro day workout. Each receiver has a very promising NFL careers ahead of him.