With the NFL Scouting Combine finally over, it's time to look at some of the event's top performers and how their results affected their stock in the draft.
One such player who turned out some impressive numbers at the combine was Odell Beckham Jr., a wide receiver out of LSU. Beckham came into the draft already regarded as one of the top wide receivers, but he solidified his position by impressing in just about every event he entered.
Unfortunately for the Niners, Beckham was so good that he just might have caught the attention of too many NFL teams to allow him to fall to San Francisco near the end of the first round. Nevertheless, stranger things have happened during the NFL Draft, and should Beckham fall to the Niners, they would be wise to scoop him up. Let's take a closer look at the ex-LSU wide receiver.
Certainly not short on statistical pedigree, Beckham caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. He never posted gaudy numbers in his two seasons prior to 2012, but upon becoming a featured part of the Tigers' offensive attack, Beckham really broke out and had an impressive season.
Also serving as a kickoff and punt returner, Beckham wasn't spectacular in that regard, but he nevertheless showed breakaway speed with a pair of touchdown returns on punts in 2012. He also returned a missed field goal 109 yards against UAB in September.
The speed that Beckham showed during that return is a perfect segue into the next section.
Beckham ran an impressive 4.43 40-yard dash, tying him for seventh among wide receivers and putting him just .01 out of the top five. But for anyone who watched Beckham during the season, his speed was no secret coming into the draft.
Indeed, Beckham's 19.5 yards per catch average was good for 11th in the nation, and it trailed only Mike Evans' 20.2 average among receivers with over 1,000 receiving yards. In other words, Beckham is darn fast, and his agility and breakaway speed make him an elite prospect.
But Beckham's speed goes beyond simply being fast. It's one thing to run like Usain Bolt; it's another to use that quickness to one's advantage on the football field. Take the word of SI.com's Doug Farrar:
Overall, the thing that impressed me most about Beckham in these drills was that he’s very comfortable with his speed. Not only is he track and field-fast, he also glides through routes and catches the ball with confidence. On the gauntlet drill, he ran through and caught everything, keeping his feet on the line all the way through. A lot of receivers weave through (Mike Evans had an issue with this), but Beckham stayed with his speed. He’s compact in his movements and doesn’t shoot out of line. This matches up with his game tape — even when he’s creating explosive plays, he’s consistent with his movements.
Beckham also turned out a solid 38.5-inch vertical jump, and his 10.93 time in the 60-yard shuttle was good for third among wide receivers. In other words, he's got hops and agility on top of his pure speed.
Why Beckham Would Be a Good Fit for the 49ers
The obvious issue here is whether Beckham will even be available by the time the Niners' pick rolls around. Perhaps the most likely candidate to steal Beckham is Kansas City, which lacks a receiver with Beckham's athleticism. However, given the unpredictable nature of the NFL draft, it's far from certain that Beckham won't fall to the Niners. Another thing to keep in mind is that San Francisco has 12 draft picks to work with, meaning it's not out of the question for them to trade up in order to grab a better first-round spot.
Should either of those scenarios occur, I would expect the 49ers to pounce on Beckham. For one, they lack that one receiver with a combination of breakaway speed and elite talent. Improving the passing game is also one of the team's most pressing needs, at least on the offensive side of the ball, given the struggles through the air last season.
Again, this is purely contingent upon Beckham falling to the 49ers, which is perhaps an unlikely scenario. But should it happen, the Niners would be wise to nab Beckham if given the opportunity.