A final grade won't be awarded for several seasons, but the early returns indicate the Giants' 2014 draft class will be one of the best in franchise history. Six of the group's seven members contributed in the season, three became regular starters and one played so well he is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate despite missing the season's first four games.
The seven draftees joined the organization with various degrees of confidence, excitement, nervousness, anxiety and readiness to contribute. Each has confronted the challenges faced by all rookies, including learning to be a professional, memorizing the playbook, integrating himself into a veteran team, finding a place to live and getting accustomed to living in the nation's largest metropolitan area.
We recently gave each member of the 2014 draft class an opportunity to talk about their first NFL season.
Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.LSUFirst Round12th Overall Selection
Beckham has played so well he's already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Okay, he's not, but the jersey he wore when he made his incredible one-handed catch against Dallas on Nov. 23 is. Instantly considered perhaps the greatest catch in NFL history, it is the singular highlight of what has become a tremendous debut season for Beckham.
He owns many team and NFL rookie records, including most catches and receiving yards by a Giants first-year player. Beckham's 12 catches vs. Washington on Dec. 14 were the most ever by a Giants rookie wide receiver, and he had another 12-reception game against the Eagles two weeks later. Beckham had four games this season in which he caught at least 10 passes and gained at least 130 yards. He finished the season with 91 catches, 1,305 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Despite those and several other impressive numbers, Beckham said the move from LSU to the NFL was not as smooth as it appeared.
"It wasn't an easy transition," he said. "I didn't start off on the best foot. Being in the SEC helped me out a lot with coming in here. But it's more of a mental thing in the film study room, not so much the speed or however athletically gifted everybody else is. There is a mental thing to it that gives it that extra edge."
The slow start Beckham alluded to was due to a hamstring injury that forced him to miss all five preseason games and the first four regular-season contests. He spent that time in meetings and studying the offense and Coach Tom Coughlin has complimented Beckham many times for knowing his assignments when he returned to the field.
But that was not a time he reflects on fondly.
"I wanted to be back so bad, I kept pushing to get back and it kept re-injuring, because it wasn't ready," Beckham said. "It's something that was bothering me for a long time. My body has a way of telling you that you need rest. It did that and I ended up being able to get healthier and have been able to maintain it right now. It's doing alright. Just being able to come back from that, it was definitely a lot mentally.
"To be able to put the mental work in even though you wanted to be out there so bad, it was all you focus was, to get back out. But you just have to realize and you have to accept it and just say, 'I'm going to be out for a while. I might as well get the playbook down.' I felt like I got that down to an extent to where I can come back and feel somewhat confident in knowing what I needed to do. That way I could play faster."
Beckham debuted with four catches, including his first touchdown, in a victory over Atlanta on Oct. 5. Two weeks later, he scored a pair of touchdowns at Dallas. In a rematch with the Cowboys four weeks later, Beckham again scored twice while catching 10 passes, including the one-handed grab that blew up twitter, had fans debating whether it was the best catch in history and prompted LeBron James to invite him to dinner when the Cleveland Cavaliers played in New York the following week. That was the day before he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for November, when he caught 38 passes.
"It's pretty crazy, the attention that came around it and people calling it the greatest catch ever," Beckham said. "I hadn't made a catch like that ever in a game but as somebody who practices stuff like that, I would hope that it wouldn't be the best catch of all-time or the greatest catch ever. I hope somebody else out there is going to make a catch that's even crazier or more ridiculous. As a competitor, you want to see that. You want to see somebody take it to a new level. That makes you want to chase and do better than what they did."
In addition to making a transition on the field, the lifelong Louisiana resident had to get accustomed to living in New Jersey.
"It's definitely been different," Beckham said. "It's fast-paced. I'm from the south, so I'm used to 'Yes ma'am, no ma'am.' The people up here are a little quick to get to the point. There's no real small talk. It's been nice. It's not a difficult adjustment, but it's definitely an adjustment."
As for the traffic in his new home, Beckham said, "It definitely kind of reminds me of Mardi Gras traffic, which only comes around at a certain point of the year. But it's pretty bad up here."
Fortunately for the Giants, Beckham has been very good on the field.
"I'm definitely okay with what I've been able to do, but I wouldn't say that I'm content or pleased with it, because we haven't been getting wins," Beckham said. "It's one of those things where maybe you need to be doing more. Whatever it is to get the wins, that's what we have to do around here. It's been okay to be able to look back. I've done some things. You look forward to the experiences that you'll get next year. It's one of those things where you can sit back and say, 'I've done alright, but this is nowhere near the end. It's only the beginning.'"