EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Jerry Reese said today that Odell Beckham Jr. was "an easy pick" for the Giants in the first round of the NFL Draft but admitted the 2014 rookie sensation was not the team's highest-graded receiver when the draft began.
"We did not have Odell Beckham Jr. ahead of Sammy Watkins," Reese said in an interview on New York all-sports radio station WFAN.
Obviously, neither did the Buffalo Bills, who traded their 2015 first-round choice to Cleveland so they could take Watkins with the fourth overall selection. Watkins played well, finishing with 65 catches for 982 yards and six touchdowns.
Beckham was taken by the Giants at No. 12 and went on to have the greatest season by a rookie wide receiver in NFL history. In 12 games, he caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns and set numerous league and franchise records.
"We really liked him," Reese said. "We had him ranked up there really high. I can tell you this, we had him ranked inside our top 10 picks. We liked the big receiver that Tampa Bay took (Mike Evans). We liked him as well. We felt like Watkins would be gone. (Zack) Martin was there, the offensive lineman. He was a guy that we liked as well. We took the best player on our board at the time and that was Beckham. We thought he could be a game-changing type player. He has been that for us. He has a chance to really develop and be a dynamic player for a long time.
"We liked (Martin) as well. We had those guys ranked close together. We would have been happy taking him if he was the best player up there available, but anytime, I am speaking for myself, not just for our personnel department and our organization, anytime there is dynamic playmaker and a guard, I am taking the playmaker."
Good thing he did. After missing the first four games with a hamstring injury, Beckham became the most dynamic and talked-about player in the NFL. He tied an NFL record with nine consecutive 90-yard games. Beckham finished the season with four consecutive games with at least 130 yards. He caught at least 10 passes in a game four times.
"He has a gifted skill set," Reese said. "I said this in the press conference after the season, he has that 'dog personality.' What I mean by that is he has got the physical gifted skill set, a lot of guys have that, but they don't have that dog mentality. He's competitive; 'you can put whoever you want on me out here, I am going to make plays, and I am going to make big plays, and I love the challenge.' He relishes the challenge of 'whoever you put on me, whatever I can do for my team.' Even in practice, you really have to slow him down a little bit in practice, because on some days when we are three-quarter speed, he's going warp speed."
Reese said Beckham has another vital attribute for a special wide receiver.
"He's got big hands," Reese said. "He and Hakeem Nicks have similar hand size. Hakeem Nicks is a little thicker, bigger type of receiver. They are close to the same height, but Hakeem Nicks is a thicker-type player and they both have big hands. I have been around a long time, and really the hands and the ball skills, I don't know if I have seen anybody with the ball skills that this kid has."
Beckham's signature moment was his incredible one-handed touchdown catch on Nov. 23 vs. Dallas, a grab that set the internet and television highlight shows abuzz for days.
"He makes catches in practice way more spectacular than some of the ones you see on Sunday," Reese said.
Reese talked about several more players in a 29-minute interview.
- On Weston Richburg, the second-round draft choice who started all but one game at left guard:
"I think he looked like a rookie out there part of the time, but he represented himself very well for the most part," Reese said. "We think he is going to be a terrific player for us, a long time player. He will battle for the center job. Naturally, he is a center. He played center at Colorado State. That is his natural position. (Geoff) Schwartz got hurt early on, so we had to put him in at guard right away so he didn't get a chance to battle for the center spot. I do think his future is at center."
- On whether Justin Pugh, a right tackle in his first two seasons, will play guard or tackle:
"It depends on how things shake out," Reese said. "If we get a big, dynamic right tackle via free agency or the draft, he is a guy that can move in at guard. He can play left tackle and he can play right tackle. There are a lot of places he can play for us. I don't think he played as well as his rookie year, but the latter part he did come back and solidify himself as a good player for us."
- On rookie linebacker Devon Kennard:
"He was one of the guys that came through for us," Reese said. "He is such a strong kid. He is powerful – really fits the mold of an old school SAM linebacker that plays on the line of scrimmage. He can set the edge for you, he can rush the passer some and he is just a strong, powerful kid that really did a nice job on special teams for us as well.
"Another young player I could talk about is (running back) Andre Williams. I think he dropped in the draft because he didn't catch the ball. He didn't have many opportunities to catch the ball at (Boston College). He actually caught 18 passes for us. That is really unheard of. People would've never thought he would catch that many balls. They never used him in the passing game at BC. He is a big, powerful kid and led our team in rushing. He did a nice job for us."
- On whether he can count on wide receiver Victor Cruz coming back from a torn patellar tendon:
"As far as our doctors and (senior vice president of medical services) Ronnie Barnes (are telling us), he is on pace to be back," Reese said. "But you never know with these kinds of injuries. We are really hoping that he can come back and be a dynamic player for us. I don't think you can put all your eggs in his basket to be that guy that we can count on 100 percent. We are hoping and it is looking like he is going to be that guy, but we can't put all of our eggs in that basket."
- On wide receiver Rueben Randle, who finished the season with two 100-yard games:
I think Rueben grew some this season," Reese said. "It helps if you have a number one who is getting double or tripled teamed. Your number two should be feasting over there. You saw him able to do that against some one-on-one coverage late in the season. I think we can grow from that. If Victor does come back and we can have three playmaking receivers out there, that is what this league is about these days. You have to be able to beat people with your receivers and you have to be able to run the ball some. I like how that looks, but to say Victor is going to make it back, I am not sure. We are really hoping he does."
- On safety Antrel Rolle, who will be a free agent:
"Antrel has been a terrific player for us," Reese said. "He came in here and gave us some solid years, and obviously we are still in the evaluation process, but the leadership and toughness that he brings to the table, he has incredible pride. You get those kinds of guys who are good players for you for a long time, but we will see where it goes. I have talked to all these unrestricted free agents (and said to them), 'We'll talk more as the offseason moves along and after we get our evaluations done and see what is out there in free agency and what is out there in the draft, then we will talk more.' He is a guy that has been a really good football player for us."
- On upgrading the offseason line this offseason:
"That is definitely important for us," Reese said. "Geoff Schwartz will definitely help us if he can come back healthy. He had a pretty big injury there at the end. He had missed most of the season, then he got back in there and got hurt again. That was a big free agent acquisition that we made that got hurt. If he can come back healthy and strong, that will definitely help us because he can play guard or tackle. We need to continue to upgrade our offensive line, that is for sure.
"Those guys like Russell Wilson, they can extend plays with their legs. Eli (Manning) is not that kind of guy, so we have to put a wall around him and protect him. In the National Football League there is no such thing as not having pressure. You have to make some plays against pressure. I don't care what happens, at some point you have to make a play against pressure. We saw that he can still do that. I said it after the season, Eli is not a baby but he isn't an old man, either. He still has tread on his tires. We feel that we can win with him and he can be a really good football player for us. We have to put more offensive linemen around him to protect him. The offense helps him, too, because the ball comes out a lot quicker now. That is part of the equation with the new offense, the ball comes out quicker and he doesn't have to hold it as long."