The Dorial Green-Beckham Conundrum: Should Teams Want the Big Wideout?
6'5'', 237-pound wide receivers with 4.49 speed don’t come around often.
Scouts, NFL teams, and analysts are drawn to measurables, and we know a wide receivers size -- particularly their weight -- correlates to touchdowns. But projecting a prospects' potential solely on height and weight is too easy of a proposition, and doesn't exactly live in reality. There are other variables to factor: production, metrics, what you see on the field and what you see off it all mesh together to create an assessment of a prospect's overall potential in the NFL.
What you want to find is where a prospect excels at most, or something that sets him apart from others. For Dorial Green-Beckham, it’s his size.
But as noted before, size alone rarely means success. Sure, he’s already going to be taller and heavier than every defensive back that covers him, but does Green-Beckham use his size to his advantage? Did he produce in college? Adjusting for height and weight, how athletic is he?
Notwithstanding major off-the-field issues that leads to the overall conundrum that we’ll discuss at the end, let’s take all of these variables and see how one of the most enamoring prospects in the 2015 draft projects at the next level.
The Metrics: A Freak Athlete?
Since 1999, only 15 wide receiver prospects have tested at the combine and weighed more than 230 pounds while measuring over 6 feet, 4 inches tall. As referenced earlier, Dorial Green-Beckham is 6’5”, 237 pounds, so he fits in the top two percent of wide receivers on sheer height and weight alone. Here are his measurables against these prospects:
|Green-Beckham||237||4.49||33.5 in.||119 in.||6.89||4.45|
|Size Adj. Average||236.3||4.56||35.4 in.||122 in.||7.11||4.32|
So, Green-Beckham is clearly a cut above in terms of raw speed for his size. He’s also pretty agile for pass-catchers his size, as his 3-cone of 6.89 is well above the size-adjusted average of 7.11. However, where Green-Beckham starts to lose ground to the field is in his leaping ability. His vertical leap of 33.5 is solid -- he’s closer to Plaxico Burress (33 inches) and Kelvin Benjamin (32.5 inches) -- but is further away from Vincent Jackson (39 inches) and physical freak, Calvin Johnson (42.5 inches).
Dorial Green-Beckham had great combine. He gained 12 pounds in his season away from college football in 2014, and is in fantastic shape considering he hasn’t stepped on a football field in close to a year and a half. His height-adjusted speed and agility test well, but he’s probably less of a Megatron-clone in terms of sheer athleticism, and is more of a hybrid between Vincent Jackson, Plaxico Burress and the 6'3'' Arizona Cardinals' wideout, Michael Floyd.
Athleticism definitely matters, and it's a transferable stock that can be applied in various situations on an NFL field. But, without opportunity and production, athleticism matters less and less.
The Production Factor
Due to the NCAA’s transfer rules, Dorial Green-Beckham had to sit out the entire 2014 college football season. But we still have his 2012 and 2013 production to live by. Using past production, we can compare Green-Beckham’s situational receiving yardage gained splits to get a feel for where he lands amongst the top wide receiver prospects in this year's draft.
Keep in mind, all of the data below are career percentages. Because all of these wide receivers had different roles in vastly different schemes all across the nation, it’s hard to make a broad apples-to-apples comparison when one wide receiver is targeted more than the other. That’s where reception yardage gained splits come in.
Effectively, yardage gained splits attempts to rectify what these wide receivers did in terms of yards accumulated.
All of the data is denoted as a percentage value of receptions on the field. For example, 56.3% (49-of-87) of Dorial Green Beckham’s receptions went for first downs in his college career.
|Name||Rec.||1st down %||15+ yards %||25+ yards %|
Obviously, without watching every snap and target that these wide receivers accumulated in their college careers, it’s incredibly tough to know who’s yardage gained splits are inflated by scheme. Just by the mechanism of the offense, some receivers are targeted more and their reception totals may not be a direct indication of what they will do at the next level.
But, as a whole, Green-Beckham’s college production -- solely in terms of situational receiving yards -- isn’t great on the surface in this year's class. He’s fairly below average in terms of first downs gained and receptions that went for 15 or more yards. Again though -- it’s hard to find a fair barometer of total production given NCAA offenses are fairly radically different across the board.
One statistical sweet spot that we glazed over in the introduction is red zone efficiency and what constitutes a touchdown scorer. Of Green-Beckham’s 15 red zone targets in 2013, 7 went for touchdowns. His red zone touchdown rate of 46.7% means almost 50 percent of his targets inside of the 20-yard line went for touchdowns. That’s insane efficiency.
Given Green-Beckham’s size, athleticism, production, and efficiency in the red zone, there is a good chance he will become a perennial touchdown-machine in the NFL.
Where Green-Beckham Wins
Clearly, Dorial Green-Beckham checks a lot of the proverbial on the field boxes. He had a breakout year in 2013 at Missouri, posting 53 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. But what are some of the traits that he excels at that shows up while watching his college games? Athleticism and production matter, but the final piece of the puzzle is what you see.
Being big and tall is one thing, but using your size to beat defensive backs at the next level is paramount. That’s one thing Green-Beckham did exceptionally well in college. He’s a long strider and a fairly polished route runner that can beat the corner and safety deep, or “box-out” a defensive back on a inside or outside breaking route.
Ultimately, his biggest asset is his red zone ability, but he's certainly not a liability in other areas of the field. He has the burst -- the run-after-catch ability -- to make defenders miss and wreak havoc after the catch. His hands are solid, although he has a slight tendency to let the ball get deep in to his body, which is somewhat allowable for a wide receiver of his size.
If you were building the perfect NFL wide receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham fits the prototype of unbelievable athletic prowess combined with incredible route running ability from a guy who is bigger and faster than everyone on the field. In a vacuum, he's probably the most talented wide receiver in this year's draft.
But NFL prospects don't live in a vacuum. Inherently, this fact leads to the Dorial Green-Beckham conundrum.
Despite having unbelievable football talent, Green-Beckham has major off-the-field concerns. His major infraction stems from a domestic abuse incident that led to his dismissal from Missouri. He was never arrested for the incident, but it obviously lays major question marks at the feet of an issue that is very important.
Green-Beckham has some other, far less major, mishaps that are well-known and can be seen by a simple Google search. As a football player, Green-Beckham is a top-five wide receiver talent. Off of the football field? Who knows. He’s a 21-year-old with a very checkered past. Will teams avoid him because of his major character concerns? Definitely. Should teams avoid him because of these concerns? Absolutely.
As a prospect, Green-Beckham presents a tough task. It’s likely going to force a team to spend immense draft capital on a wide receiver that has a questionable past. Maybe Green-Beckham can change as a person. Perhaps he already has. But on the field, the message is very clear: you have a wide receiver with amazing talent.