How did Dorial Green-Beckham’s performance during the 2015-16 regular season compare to other rookie receivers?
In the 2015 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans selected wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham with the No. 40 overall pick. He was the eighth wide receiver taken off the draft board, but Tennessee had just landed a beast.
At 6-feet, 5-inches and 240-pounds Dorial Green-Beckham towers over the prototypical NFL cornerback (5’ 10”, 185 lbs). Yet he runs just as quickly. In fact, Green-Beckham’s 40-yard dash time (4.49s) is centi-seconds faster than the average dash time of all cornerbacks in the 2015 draft (4.51s).
This size and speed translated into production at the University of Missouri. During his freshman and sophomore years Green-Beckham became one of the nation’s most talented collegiate receivers as he totaled 87 receptions for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns through 2012 and 2013.
Despite the allure of his physique and on-field production, Green-Beckham was a controversial selection in the draft. There were questions surrounding the 22-year-old’s character, maturity, and preparedness to play in the NFL.
During his tenure at Missouri, Green-Beckham suffered two marijuana-related arrests and first-degree burglary charges. After the third incident, the university dropped their star wide receiver, and Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma, his number one school coming out of high school.
Because of NCAA transfer rules Green-Beckham was unable to play his first year, the 2014 season, at Oklahoma. He instead practiced with the scout team and remained healthy on the bench. In the following season, Green-Beckham forwent his NCAA eligibility and declared for the 2015 NFL draft. He hadn’t appeared in a football game for more than a year.
This troubled history forced NFL teams to weigh Green-Beckham’s risk against his potential upside. Certain teams showed interest in the wide receiver prior to the draft: the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, and San Francisco 49ers to name a few. Most teams, though, were hesitant to use a high draft pick on a player who could run into issues off the field. In fact, at the scouting combine Green-Beckham was reportedly asked the same question by over twenty NFL teams: “Can we trust you?”
The Titans bit the bullet and drafted Green-Beckham with the No. 40 overall pick. Their selection was made at perhaps just the right time, as Houston and San Francisco had the 43rd and 46th picks.
It seemed fitting that Green-Beckham come to Tennessee. The Titans had also drafted former-Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick. The young quarterback would certainly benefit from a large, athletic target like Green-Beckham. Still, Titans’ personnel were likely asking themselves: can we trust him? Now that the 2015 regular season has passed, we can evaluate whether the wide receiver was worth the risk.
Off the field, Green-Beckham has had no issues since he was drafted.
He became a father to his first son, Dreyln Isiah, two months after the draft. Green-Beckham admits that Dreyln’s birth inspired him to be a responsible father figure since he never met his own biological father: “My goal is to be that father figure to [Dreyln]. I want to give my all to him, and give him what I didn’t have as a kid. I want to set an example that he can follow, and be someone that he can be proud of. It’s definitely a life changer for me.”
With no issues off the field, Green-Beckham was able to work his way back into football.
He began the NFL season slowly. Through the first three weeks Green-Beckham played in just 16.6% of the Titans’ offensive snaps. He would come off the bench in red zone situations, where his size presented a mismatch versus smaller defenders. In fact, he caught his first NFL touchdown when the Titans faced a first-and-goal versus the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3.
Green-Beckham stood at the right side of the field in single coverage versus pro-bowl defenseman Vonte Davis. At the ball’s snap, Mariota lobbed a pass in Green-Beckham’s direction. The 240-pound receiver collided with Davis, who fell to the back of the end zone, and Green-Beckham easily snagged the pass for a three-yard touchdown.
Green-Beckham saw a significant increase in playing time thereafter, as starting receivers Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, and Justin Hunter were sidelined with injury. The rookie appeared in 55.5% of the Titans’ offensive snaps between Weeks 6 and 8, and 83.3% for the Titans’ final three games.
By the season’s end Green-Beckham had totaled 32 receptions for 549 yards and four touchdowns. He had more receptions, yards and touchdowns than six of the seven receivers drafted in front of him. In fact, only Amari Cooper bested Green-Beckham in these three metrics.
| Amari Cooper ||4||OAK||16 ||72||130||1,070||6|
Moreover, when comparing Green-Beckham to all 34 rookie receivers from 2015, the 22-year-old Titan holds his own. He ranked third in red zone catches, fourth in touchdowns, fifth in receptions, fifth in first downs, sixth in DYAR, and seventh in Pro Football Focus player grading.
Here are receiving statistics for rookie receivers in 2015. Note: DYAR, or defense adjusted yards above replacement, estimates how many more yards of offense a receiver generates compared to a replacement-level receiver. DYAR is reported for receivers with at least 11 targets in 2015.
The Titans evaluated risk versus potential wisely. Green-Beckham not only remained quiet off the field but also outperformed his draft expectations.
Nonetheless, Green-Beckham has areas of his game to improve. This past season he ran incorrect routes, turned his head late to passes, and missed blocks. Perhaps his worst blunder came in Week 14 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars when he muffed an open pass from Mariota, and Devon House intercepted the tipped ball.
The rookie soon made amends.
On the Titans’ next offensive drive versus the Jaguars, Mariota threw a 30-yard pass to Green-Beckham at midfield. In turn, he truck-sticked Sergio Brown, ran downfield, and dove into the end zone as Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz nipped at his heels. The play resulted in a 47-yard touchdown.
This highlight, among others, shows a glimmer of what the wide receiver Green-Beckham may one day become: quick, physical and dominant.
Titans’ head coach Mike Mularkey is ready for Green-Beckham to take the necessary steps to get there. However, Mularkey acknowledges that the progression is largely under the receiver’s own control: “He’s young. He’s got to learn how to be a pro, and I think having guys in that room like Harry Douglas was very good for DGB. I think a lot of that will be up to him, how he prepares, starting now.”
Mularkey could not have said it better. The seasons to come lie in Green-Beckham’s control. But with the 22-year-old grounded by his son off the field, his chances for future success look bright. Beware the beast.
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