Why the Pro Bowl will help Odell Beckham Jr.

Everyone seems to be gearing up for another year where we ignore the Pro Bowl and laugh about the fact that it is even being played.

The running joke this year is the number of declined invitations leading to replacements, as we now have 33 new players participating. The quarterback pool includes Tyrod Taylor, who only threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,000 yards, Teddy Bridgewater, who had 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Jameis Winston and Derek Carr, who each turned the ball over 21 times this season. Needless to say, these guys wouldn’t make it most other years.

Odell_Beckham_Jr.
Beckham is playing in his second Pro Bowl in just his second season out of LSU.

So yes, the game itself will likely lack a little bit of the proven star-power we usually see. However, there is still a lot of value in this game being played. Most of it this year goes to the New York Giants.

As we saw this season, the Giants’ number one wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., continued his meteoric rise to stardom. Beckham has quickly become a fan favorite for Big Blue. He also showed us another example of why becoming a star so quickly can be dangerous.

Beckham earned himself a one-game suspension this season for his actions on the field against the Carolina Panthers. That game was talked up as a huge match up between Beckham and Panther corner Josh Norman.

Beckham let his temper get the best of him and was lucky not to be thrown out of the game. He cost his team valuable yards on multiple occasions for penalties called against him in what ended up being a very close game. His absence in the team’s ensuing trip to Minnesota was also felt in a 49-17 drubbing against the Vikings.

It became clear to everyone that Beckham’s early fame had gone to his head. He had become a prima donna, similar to Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. We saw what happened to those guys, who will always be remembered more for their attitude than their talent. I really think that Beckham would have continued down that path if it was not for the Pro Bowl this weekend.

No, I don’t think Beckham will learn anything physical or show great signs of route running development. I think he is going to get something he desperately needs. And that is a mentor.

Beckham is one of the two team captains for his Pro Bowl squad. That team is being coached by Jerry Rice, who is hands down the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football. In addition to that, Rice is also a great role model. He was never in the media for the wrong meetings. He was certainly a public figure and sometimes flashy, but he kept himself in check. He learned to share the spotlight with Joe Montana and Steve Young as well.

Odell Beckham Jr.
If Beckham straightens out his attitude, we can all enjoy these types of catches a little bit more.

That is exactly what Beckham needs to learn to do and there is no one better in the world for him to learn from. Rice not only handled his fame, he embraced it in a way that made him an icon and a lovable player. I’m not saying that Beckham needs for everyone one to love him, but he needs to get his attitude in check and make sure he is not a distraction to his team. Continuing to garner negative attention, like he did towards the end of the regular season this year, hurts your team, no matter how talented of a player you are. When you happen to be the star of the team, that just compounds the issue.

 

Rice came to practice every day ready to work and had that drive to be the best. So often we see young players rest on their laurels and bask in the glory of early career success, only to have it backfire. I have a good feeling that Rice is working on putting this kid on the right path.

We will have to see if Rice is able to instill these leadership qualities in Beckham. It seems like that he is off to a good start though.

Assigning NFL Honors

The fourth annual NFL Honors ceremony is a week from tonight in Phoenix, Arizona. The ceremony is a big publicity event that the NFL has modelled similar to the Grammy’s or Oscar’s announcing all of the various award winners for the season. Like all award shows, there are tons of celebrities and a comedic personality hosting the show, this year being Seth Meyers. The real reason fans tune in though is to see who has been given the big awards for the year. Here is who I think should take home this year’s batch of trophies.

AP Most Valuable Player: Tony Romo, Cowboys
This has been one of the most difficult to determine MVP races in a few years. My pick this year though has to be Romo. The Cowboys’ quarterback finished the year with the best completion percentage, highest yards per attempt average and top passer rating. He did all of this while battling through a tough back injury that plagued him throughout the season. Romo also took care of the ball throwing only nine interceptions. What really validates Romo as the MVP was his five game winning drives, which tied for the league lead. He led the Cowboys to their first playoff berth since 2011 as well. He was the best player in the league this year.

AP Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals
If I had told you that the Cardinals were going to win the NFC West this year back in September, you would’ve laughed at me. While they did not win it, only losing on a tiebreaker with Seattle, they finished tied for the best record in the league and made the playoffs despite losing the first two quarterbacks on their depth chart. That is a testament to the hard work of Arians. His team managed 12 wins this year despite having one of the most banged up offenses in the league. The Cardinals defense was simply incredible in some games this season and Arizona’s coach found some creative ways to move the ball offensively. Even when backed up against a wall, he succeeded. There is no doubt that Arians was the best coach in football this year.

AP Offensive Player of the Year: LeVeon Bell, Steelers
You can argue DeMarco Murray all you want, but when you play behind the road grading line that he had this year, you should do well. Plus the guy fumbled it five times this year. Meanwhile, Bell never fumbled the ball on any of his 290 carries or 83 receptions. Bell also averaged the same number of yards per carry so it stands to reason that he could have had Murray’s same production if had the same number of attempts. What really sets Bell apart is his versatility; he was a threat on the ground and through the air. Bell finished only 46 yards from scrimmage behind Murray, despite having 73 fewer touches. Bell was impressive and effective on his way to being the best offensive player in the league.

AP Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans
This one is absolutely no contest. Watt was far and away the best player on the defensive side of the football this season. He finished the season with over 20 sacks, the most tackles by a defensive lineman and the most pass deflections by a defensive lineman as well. He was a disruptive force yet again with his big play ability, scoring two defensive touchdowns, one on an interception and one on a fumble recovery. Watt showed a knack for forcing turnovers as well with his four forced fumbles and five recoveries. It is not set in stone, but this is the most sure thing at the NFL Honors ceremony.

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
And he only needed 12 games to do it. He could even make a case as the best overall receiver this season. Beckham had over 90 catches, 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns. Every single one of those totals ranks in the top 10 for the NFL this season. The Giants’ rookie also had the most receiving yards per game by any player in the league. He also had the highlight reel catch of the decade thus far. No one deserves the award more than the New York wideout and I think he will walk away with it next Saturday.

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Mosely, Ravens
People are clamoring for Khalil Mack here but I think Mosely had the better season. The Ravens linebacker racked up 133 tackles this year, good for seventh in the NFL. He also had 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. He became the backbone of a stout Baltimore rush defense allowing the fourth fewest rushing yards per game. He was also named a Pro Bowler, the first Ravens rookie ever to be named one. Considering Ray Lewis played for this franchise, that is downright impressive.

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
You have to look at Gronk and wonder, “Wait he was hurt last year?” The Patriots tight end looked fairly fluid with how he moved around the field this season. His credentials for the award speaks for itself. He finished with the fourth most receptions, the most receiving yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns among tight ends. He made some spectacular catches and proved once again that he is a very solid blocking tight end. Gronk roared back to life this year and should be awarded for his triumphant comeback.
Those are all of the top awards. There are several other ones to be named that night but these are the ones that are the most talked about. So now, I want to know if I got them right. Let me know what you think.

The new Beckham mesmerizing America

In the early 2000s, the United States saw soccer superstar David Beckham leave the English Premier League and venture into Major League Soccer. This spawned a huge uptick in soccer interest across the country. This was the big name player on the world stage choosing the MLS as his new home. Beckham retired some years ago from soccer but there is a new Beckham taking America by storm from East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The world was introduced to Odell Cornelious Beckham Jr. a few weeks ago on Sunday Night Football. The Giants took on the division rival Cowboys at MetLife Stadium that night. Beckham started just his seventh career NFL game in New Jersey and he made a name for himself with just one play. You can hear NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth say in the broadcast that it may have been the greatest catch that he had ever seen. Twitter exploded. ESPN had a field day. Athletes all over the US reacted. Little did we know that it wasn’t even the best we would see of the Giants rookie we would see this year.

The Giants would lose that game to Dallas but no one seemed to care. Beckham had already been producing well. Three weeks before that Cowboys game, against Indianapolis, the LSU product racked up the incredible catch with an 8-catch 156-yard performance. Then against Seattle two weeks before the Dallas game, matched up with one of the best cover corners in the league in Richard Sherman, Beckham registered 7 catches for 108 yards. And in San Francisco, the talented rookie had 6 grabs for 93 more yards. After Beckham’s unreal catch against Dallas he had a solid week against Jacksonville with 7 catches and 90 yards before exploding again for 11 receptions and 130 yards against Tennessee just last week.

Today, Beckham returned to New Jersey to take on rival Washington. He dominated the entire day with 12 grabs for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Odell’s athleticism and massive hands have been too much for defensive backs to handle week in and week out. Beckham has made Eli Manning look like a much better quarterback over the past 9 weeks that he has been playing, coming down with a number of ridiculous jump balls.

The collective body of work has already thrown Beckham into the Pro Bowl conversation with only ten games played. The Offensive Rookie of the Year award will likely go to either the Giants wideout or Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans. Numbers do not fully cover how incredible Beckham has been but they are still impressive. In his very short career, he has racked up 71 catches for 972 yards and 9 touchdowns. That is usually a pretty good rookie season for a lot of rookies. What is even more impressive is that those 71 catches come on just 84 targets. That is an unbelievable ratio, especially when looking at the rest of the league. Before today’s games, Roddy White and Kelvin Benjamin have the same number of catches (59) on 85 and 110 targets respectively. Beckham only had 69 targets.

This kid from LSU is exciting to watch and Giants fans have to be excited for his potential. It is a very small sample size but Beckham has exceled without having a full offseason under his belt. I am not going to say that everyone should expect this same production next season because receivers are often susceptible to that sophomore slump. But Beckham should be a top-5 receiver year in year out if he continues to play like he has this season. You have to wonder too how dangerous this Giants passing attack could be if Victor Cruz was healthy and drawing coverage from Beckham as well. The point is, don’t be surprised when this guy is dominating secondarys over the next couple of years barring injury. Beckham might turn out to be the best of this outstanding rookie wide receiver class. Only time will tell.