During the season here at Footballguys, I profiled receivers using my Reception Perception methodology. Now, that is officially draft season, we’ll turn our focus to the incoming rookies. In anticipation of the release of the 2015 Reception Perception Project, and the NFL Draft, I’ll be releasing prospect profiles using the Reception Perception methodology. Come on down, Dorial Green-Beckham.
As we get deeper into the process, it appears that the talk of this being a poor draft class at the top, will only grow louder. There does not appear to be a transformative prospect in the bunch. The task of even picking out more than a handful of strong ones comes with a fair amount of difficulty.
However, there is one player who fits the bill of a terrific, high-end NFL prospect. Dorial Green-Beckham, by way of Universities Missouri and Oklahoma, has everything evaluators look for when scouting wide receivers for the NFL. The trouble is, he also has major red flags in his legal background, and the rumors about his character are beyond damning. Did you notice he is “by way of” two schools? Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in the wake of multiple drug-related issues, and a domestic incident charge. He promptly transferred to the University of Oklahoma, but never played a down before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Keeping the character concerns in mind are vital if you’re in the business of predicting when a player might hear his name called during the NFL Draft. That is not, nor has it ever been, the goal of Reception Perception. That part of his NFL projection evaluation is very important, but will not be taken into regard here. As always, this methodology will strip away the noise, and focus solely on the player as an individual entity on the football field. When you indulge in that exercise, you will find yourself caught up in the siren song of his enormous talent.
Disclaimer: usually a full season profile of Reception Perception works through eight games of a receiver. Unfortunately, with the scarcity of all-22 footage available on college prospects, that was not possible. For the purposes of this profile, we’ll be working strictly off Dorial Green-Beckham’s 2013 games against Arkansas State and Toledo. I personally have watched and scouted more games of his than just these, and they are a factor in my opinion. However, all Reception Perception figures cited in this article will be exclusively taken from the cited games.
Dorial Green-Beckham is a physical specimen. Listed at 6’5, with a lean 237-plus pound frame and long arms, the mercurial wideout was cut from stone to play the position. From a pure size, dimensions, and skillset standpoint, Green-Beckham is along the same archetype as Julio Jones, A.J. Green and the player Andre Johnson once was. As such, he plays the same receiver position.
Through out the Reception Perception series, we’ve seen that teams want their biggest, most athletic receivers in the X position. Missouri lined up Dorial Green-Beckham on the left side of the field an eye-popping 95.8% of his snaps from this two game sample. They put him in the slot on the rare occasion, but those instances were few and far in-between. The majority of his snaps (75%) saw him aligned on the line of scrimmage, as well.
An imposing physical presence on the field, Dorial Green-Beckham fits right into the mold of the traditional X-receiver. As most of his snaps took place on the left side of the field, and on the line of scrimmage, that is indeed the position he played in college.
In the Previous Reception post, featuring Amari Cooper, we discussed the possibility that college prospects would have over-inflated target per route percentage figures. Cooper’s was exceedingly high, coming in at 43%. The theory was that college offenses overused their great wide receivers even more than NFL offenses. Interesting enough, Dorial Green-Beckham was targeted on 21% of his routes, much less of a rate than Amari Cooper. We’ve already concluded Cooper is a good prospect, but talent-wise Green-Beckham is billed as his superior. So, it seems curious why Missouri would not (seemingly) make better use of their major weapon.
To provide context to his target per route percentage figure, 21% is not a strikingly low number. High-end number one NFL wide receivers, in pass heavy offenses, typically average in the upper-twenties. However, a figure in the lower-twenties is not too alarming. This is especially true over a small sample size, and remember, this study qualifies as such since we are only working off two games. Green-Beckham’s 21% target per route rate is only surprising due to how it contrasts with Cooper’s.
There are some potential reasons why Dorial Green-Beckham was not targeted as heavily as Cooper. One of which was the nature of the offense he played in. Whereas Alabama runs a pro-style system, their SEC rival Missouri Tigers operate a rather stripped down system. There are a number of read option looks in the running game, and the passing concepts are rather basic. They run a typical college spread system, and their quarterbacks usually work off their first read. If Green-Beckham’s number was not called from the onset of the play, the quarterbacks likely were not going to find their way to him.
It’s also fair to say that the last time we saw Dorial Green-Beckham on a football field, there was still some rawness to his game. We’ll discuss his route work in-depth later on, but he certainly was no artisan in that department during his 2013 season. Green-Beckham can create separation, and torment cornerbacks with the best of them, but being in just the right place at the right time was not always his strength. His, at times, lackadaisical routes often found him at an inadequate depth of the field. He also had an occasional drop or two. Green-Beckham, in this sample, dropped a pass on 7.7% of his targets. Again, this is not an egregious number, or anything to sound an alarm over. However, a 7.7% drop rate does at least point to there being some concerns over lapses in a receiver’s game.
Contested Catch Success Rate
With 12 contested catch situations in five games charted, we received a good glimpse into Amari Cooper’s ability in this phase of the game in the last Reception Perception prospect profile. With only a two game sample size to work with on Dorial Green-Beckham, we do not have that same luxury. However, it’s not impossible to extrapolate and try to make conclusions:
In the two games charted, Dorial Green-Beckham went up for three contested catch attempts. He came down with two of the three—coming out to a 66.7% success rate. As mentioned, this is a limited sample size. Yet, getting caught up in that would be foolish. Scouting the rest of the tape available on him, this success rate would likely hold up, or fluctuate on a minimal amount, over an extended study.
Sporting his massive frame, and ability to extend for off-target passes, its no surprise Green-Beckham excels at the catch point. He has the physical mindset, my ball mentality and strength in traffic a man of his imposing size should. Green-Beckham knows he’s big, and he plays like it. He combines these “big” traits with outstanding leaping ability and body control in the air. No doubt, Dorial Green-Beckham checks the vast majority of the boxes when it comes to a “play the ball in the air” wide receiver.
Of course, the former Missouri wideout did not post a 100% success rate. That carries over to his other tape. There are times when Green-Beckham fails to haul in a catch in a highly contested situation. These are the outliers, but they do speak to some focus and timing issues in his game. He does not always run routes to the precise location, and is therefore put out of position to properly play the ball in the air. While a strong catcher, technique-wise, Green-Beckham could stand to improve his timing when shooting his hands up to make a contested catch. These are small, likely correctable mishaps, and they are not the norm.
Projecting Dorial Green-Beckham to the NFL is an easy task. It’s hard to imagine these positive attributes not carrying over to the next level. He looks like an NFL receiver when playing the ball in the air, more often than not.
Route Analysis and Success Rate Versus Coverage Data
Some of the numbers in Dorial Green-Beckham’s collection of target data hinted at certain elements of rawness in his game. I believe a 7.7% drop rate, and catch rate below 70% allude to issues as a “depth route runner”. Being too deep or shallow in his patterns confused a less than stellar quarterback, and thus made the throws, and catches, more difficult.
When we last saw Dorial Green-Beckham, it was fair to classify him as more potential than proficiency as a route runner. Despite that criticism, the young wideout displays all the traits you want to see when scouting route runners at the position:
Dorial Green-Beckham’s Route Percentage Chart will be the most surprising piece from his Reception Perception study. He is billed by most, whether due to Missouri’s offensive design or his ability, to be mostly just a screen and nine-route runner. Again, two games and only 62 routes is a small sample, but looking at his Route Percentage Chart, that reputation may be overblown.
The nine-route was the most frequently run in the two games charted. This is not surprising. The same was true in Amari Cooper’s case—both have an identical percentage figure of 19.4% on nines—and Green-Beckham is an even better deep threat projection. Green-Beckham’s natural speed is evident, and he can just run by corners. Add in the fact he is 6’5, and he’s a lethal threat on vertical routes. There’s no reason to mark his high percentage of nine-routes as a negative, because this is where he is most dangerous.
Outside of that figure, the rest of his Route Tree Percentage Chart is surprisingly more balanced than expected. While Dorial Green-Beckham never ran and out or corner route, and was rarely called to go out on digs, he tried a little bit of everything else.
Slant and curl routes were the next most frequently run, both coming in at 17.7% of his 62 routes. Seeing the slant route so highly represented should surprise no one who has followed Reception Perception. When profiled this season for Footballguys, Julio Jones had a 22.7% frequency figure for slants, while Josh Gordon came in at 21.9%. Both are players Dorial Green-Beckham compares to favorably. When football teams (college or professional) have a big wide receiver that presents such a physical mismatch, they often employ a “get the ball in his hands” approach. One easy way to accomplish that goal is to dial up plenty of slant routes. This pattern is an easy one for receivers to run, but still puts them in space. The size advantage of these stud wide receivers puts them in excellent position to shield defenders from the ball, while their quickness and speed helps them earn ample separation and ability to create after the catch. Much like his NFL counterparts, Dorial Green-Beckham is the type of talent where a team will try to feed him easy catches on slants. The hope will be he can harness his physical gifts and rip through defenses on these routes, as Gordon and Jones have.
Dorial Green-Beckham’s Route Tree Percentage Chart, from this two game sample, is a little more balanced than anticipated. While still limited, it is similar to NFL players who also fall within his archetype. Now, we’ll use the Route Tree Success Chart to see just how well he performed on each pattern:
(SRVC denotes success rate versus coverage for each route. PTS indicates how many PPR fantasy points a receiver earned on each particular route)
Gaining separation comes easy to Dorial Green-Beckham. His movements are effortless, and they’re especially stunning given his size. He can make a slight twitch at the break, or stopping point, of a route and leave cornerbacks reeling trying to catch up to him. Green-Beckham occasionally displays the advanced moves a receiver needs to thrive, but even on pure potential, he gets open on just about every brand of route.
The nine was Green-Beckham’s most frequently run route from this two game sample, and he posted a 66.7% SRVC score on them. Going a little qualitative here, Green-Beckham’s 66.7% SRVC on nines are probably strictly the result of his physical advantage. On most of these deep patterns, he just runs by a defender, and makes the catch at a height they simply cannot hope to reach. At this point, he’s yet to show any advanced craftsman-like techniques to free himself from coverage on these routes. He’ll need work at the NFL level in learning how to use his foot frequency on stop and go deception moves, and some work releasing at the line of scrimmage. Some of his losses on the other 33.7% of his nines can be attributed to this.
While, I’ve written about my concerns with Julio Jones being a tad too robotic in his movements to ever develop in the fine crafts of the position, those concerns do not spill over to Dorial Green-Beckham. The former Missouri wideout may be even smoother through his in-route movements than the wildly successful Jones. With proper coaching, and provided he takes to it, Green-Beckham should absorb these finer points sooner rather than later in his NFL career.
Green-Beckham posted high SRVC scores on the routes that asked him to break back to the quarterback. He ran a comeback on 9.7% of his 62 routes, and a curl on 17.7% of them. He posted SRVC scores of 87.5% and 90.9%, respectively. Along with the previously discussed slant (81.8% SRVC), curls and comebacks are two routes where Green-Beckham can use both his size and athletic advantage. You can see him both box out defenders when they stick with him through the turn, or simply use a quick twitch or long stride and hip flexion to separate from them at the hitch.
Dorial Green-Beckham, in the two games charted, showed the ability to create separation on every brand of route he was assigned. All of his SRVC per route scores were quite strong, but he had the most production on nines and “other” routes. Green-Beckham amassed nine catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns in these two games. Looking at his PTS marks, we can see he scored two of the touchdowns on vertical routes, while the third came on an improvisational “other” route. The rest of his catches were just simple, shorter gains.
While we now know Dorial Green-Beckham can get open on just about any route on the tree, let’s take a look at how he performed against different brands of coverage:
The big wideout faced 36 man coverage attempts in the two games charted. He defeated his coverage 86.1% of the time. When facing zones he posted an 83.3% SRVC score. Both of these success rates are very high, and lend more credence to his excellence as a separation player. Even more encouraging, Green-Beckham still managed to get free when Toledo or Arkansas lent an extra man to cover him. He posted a sterling 90.9% SRVC score against double coverage.
The one concern here is his 11.1% SRVC against the nine press attempts. As he is a big wide receiver, you would not expect Dorial Green-Beckham to struggle with jams or bump and run coverage. The issue does not lie with his size. We’ve harped on the issue of rawness, and when we last saw him on the football field, Green-Beckham still struggled consistently releasing from the line of scrimmage. Again, this is a more of a lack of reps, and technical proficiency, rather than a mental makeup, or physical issue. With that in mind, we have hope—albeit no certainty—that he can develop in this sector of the game.
Similar to the contested catch success rate measurement, this two game sample did not provide much in the way of open field attempts. Dorial Green-Beckham was dropped on first contact on all of his three open field attempts from this sample. Green-Beckham will never be mistaken for a Percy Harvin or the Anquan Boldin of old when it comes to physicality after the catch. He sports a long and lean frame, which makes him an excellent bet to snare passes out of the air, but an easy target to wrap up in the open field.
While this number will not make evaluators smile, it is not overly concerning either. His ability to create separation, and speed with the ball in his hands, will be how he makes big plays. Yards after the catch will never be his greatest strength, but he won’t be a liability there, either.
Translation and the Bottom Line
In a draft class in which projection ambiguity seems to grow by the day, Dorial Green-Beckham will be one of it’s biggest mysteries. With earned, and intense character questions, its impossible to project him being drafted in line with where his talent would deserve. However, talent and performance is all we can measure with Reception Perception.
While Reception Perception looked favorably on Amari Cooper, his numbers paled in comparison to Dorial Green-Beckham’s. I believe that is in line with reality when comparing the two side-by-side as prospects. When strictly judging on the basis of ability and talent at the wide receiver position, Dorial Green-Beckham is the clear top prospect at the position in the 2015 NFL Draft. There will be other factors that cloud that, but it does not change the player.
As a wide receiver, an individual football player, Dorial Green-Beckham is the complete package. His on-field athletic profile is outstanding, and his performance at the Scouting Combine next week will only confirm that. The wild dimensions he sports, and knows how to use, are fantastic. We saw through this study that he knows how to earn separation. He posted positive SRVC scores on all of his routes run in the sample, and beat man and zone coverage at over 80% success rates. While he’s easy to like before the ball arrives, he can win scouts over when the pass reaches him. Dorial Green-Beckham only had three contested catch attempts in this two game sample, but he did win two of them. If you watch his tape from the 2013 game against Kentucky, you’ll see that his 66.7% success rate would only extrapolate, or even improve, in a larger sample. This player checks every box you’d want in a wide receiver prospect.
Even with all that shine, Dorial Green-Beckham is not a complete on-field product. His 7.7% drop rate speaks to some lapses in focus—both in route depth and in catching concentration. A very poor 11.1% SRVC against press reminds that he still needs a ton of work in releasing from the line of scrimmage. The other, and much more sterling, SRVC scores were mostly achieved by pure physical dominance, not the product of tireless work by a craftsman.
Is Dorial Green-Beckham as projection? Absolutely, but this is true of all draft prospects. What we do know is that Green-Beckham has not yet hit his ceiling. Whether he will ever approach that vast standard, is anyone’s guess. The specter of evaluating old tape, on top of the character concerns makes this a tricky endeavor. However, just because the film is from 2013, does not change who the player is and can be. And if he were squeaky clean, Dorial Green-Beckham would easily be a top-5 prospect in this draft class.
Come draft day, some team will remember all of his fantastic tape. They will hear the siren song, and be unable to resist taking a card with his name up to the commissioner early in the draft. Much like many ill-fated sailors before them. It will be up to the structure he finds himself in, and his own choices, whether Dorial Green-Beckham makes his future team regret the day they docked their ship to the harbor of his career. As Reception Perception shows, the Green-Beckham experience could be a truly special one. A player falling along an elite archetype of wide receivers, he possesses the supreme gifts to change an offense. Here’s to hoping he does so.
If you enjoyed this prospect profile, become familiar with Reception Perception and learn about the release of the first annual Reception Perception Project publication. Make sure to follow the series, and bookmark it to prepare for the release of the inaugural edition of the publication this summer.