By Jason Keidel
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While we dig into the graveyard of a haunted NFL season, it didn’t take a total excavation to hit gold.
Odell Beckham Jr. is rising at a breakneck rate. Despite missing the first four games of 2014, he is near or at the top of every pertinent category among perhaps the most fertile crop of rookie wide receivers in league history. While Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin have made their maiden campaigns look quite facile, Beckham gave them a month-long head start and is about to lap them.
If you haven’t parsed the particulars, Beckham has 79 receptions for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 11 games. If you prorate it over a full season you’re talking top-tier stats for any player of any vintage, and from any vantage.
More than that, Beckham has an incredible — and intangible — sheen on the field, well beyond his Houdini catch against the Cowboys, which had Hall of Famers grasping for the oxygen mask. While most receivers are still adjusting to the whiplash pace of pro ball, Beckham is sprinting and smiling his way to Rookie of the Year cachet. Not since Randy Moss hurdled NFL defenders has a rookie started so superlatively.
Only Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson have more touchdowns. But they’ve all played more games, for better teams, and with way hotter quarterbacks. And despite his late start to the season, Beckham is 13th in yards.
Already toying with NFL secondaries, Beckham’s start is summoning some swollen platitudes from folks who know the game. And it leads this writer to ask what would have been blasphemous a month ago.
Is Odell Beckham the best wideout in football?
When you take a three-tiered approach of age, wage and skills, is there another receiver in the NFL you would pick today over Big Blue’s nuclear threat?
Calvin Johnson is perilously close to 30. Bryant is a handful on the field, but also off the gridiron. Bryant, of my beloved black & gold, is having a sublime season, but not even he has the hands and alacrity of Beckham.
Nelson — like anyone who catches a football from Aaron Rodgers — has the advantage of playing with a savant, in Lambeau, where the ghosts and gravitas of Green Bay seem to give every high-end player a form of spiritual PED. The same argument goes for Emmanuel Sanders, who catches balls from Peyton Manning in the high-flying, high-altitude crucible of Denver.
Beckham is making defenses dizzy when they know the Giants stink, and he’s by far their best player.
Sure, we love premature postmortems and parades. We crown players long before they reach professional puberty. No doubt Beckham is a football foal, but his game against the Rams in St. Louis — where the Seahawks and Broncos were toppled — was ethereal.
More than his eight catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns, Beckham has that immeasurable gear that vaults him above and beyond NFL defenders. If it feels like he’s literally toying with the opposition, it’s probably because he is.
And, yes, he spawned a riot with his histrionics. He’s a little more loquacious and hyperbolic than we’d like. But it seems, other than Megatron, the mouthy wideout is pro forma in pro football. His selfies in the end zone and his chirping at foes must be curtailed if he wants to cement his status in the stratosphere.
But in an otherwise regrettable and forgettable season for Big Blue, it seems they have gotten the best player in the last NFL draft. Odell Beckham Jr. may not already be the best in the world, but he’s about to own the world.
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