NEW ORLEANS — LSU coach Les Miles sees one potential downside to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry entering this week’s NFL draft.
It is that the best of friends, who also comprised the most prolific receiving tandem in Tigers history last season, probably won’t get to play on the same team or be around each other as much.
“Ideally, you could send them to the same team, because they can do the same things with different skill sets and it just fits,” Miles said. “They wanted to be great and they challenged each other every day with their ability to catch balls. And the most ridiculous grabs we saw them make, week after week, in practice.”
LSU’s football program, in existence since 1893, never had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season until 2013. Landry had 1,193, fourth all-time at LSU for a single season, and Beckham had 1,152 (fifth). Together they combined for a little more than 66 percent of all LSU receptions last season and also combined for 18 touchdown catches, including a team-leading 10 by Landry.
They are not projected to be selected in the same round. Beckham, who has more speed and was also a standout return man, is expected to go in the first round. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Beckham would likely be the third or fourth receiver selected.
“Beckham is an explosive kid with return skills,” Mayock said, adding that the 6-foot, 193-pound receiver “gets in and out of breaks as well as any receiver in this draft,” and, “has good size.”
Landry’s draft grades haven’t been as high, primarily because of his 4.77 40-yard time at the NFL combine, the slowest of 45 receivers there. He did, however, run a 4.51 at LSU’s pro day in April.
Analysts have speculated Landry will be taken in the second or third rounds because of his perceived lack of speed. Mayock likes him.
“One of my favorite players in the draft is Jarvis Landry,” Mayock said. “Not fast, but one of the toughest players in this draft. I think he’s a value in the third round.”
Beckham, however, is bothered by the thought of Landry being anything other than a first-round pick. Certainly, he’s biased, having referred to Landry as “the brother I never had.”
In Beckham’s opinion, scouts ought to focus less on Landry’s 40-time and more on game tape. They’ll see Landry hold on to a pass over the middle at Georgia after making the catch between three defenders and getting hit so hard his helmet flew off. Or they can see a critical drive-extending catch against Arkansas in which he hurdled horizontally over the shoulder of a defender to somehow steal away a potential interception.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best receiver in this draft,” Beckham said of Landry. “A lot of people knock him for his speed, but you don’t run the 40 in the game. You don’t run shuttles. ... You’re playing football and he’s one of the best football players I’ve ever stepped on a field with.
“You had two receivers with 1,000 yards in the same offense,” Beckham added. “And with (Landry), that all goes out the window because of his speed? It’s frustrating when I hear stuff like that.”
Miles said he understands why scouts view the players differently — they’re not the same type of athlete — but takes issue that they should be valued differently.
“You see Odell Beckham’s great speed and his great catching radius, his down-the-field receptions, his punt returns and kick returns,” Miles said. “Jarvis Landry is that guy who is a seam runner, a vertical threat in the seam, and a guy that has just unbelievable short-area quickness — in other words, to defeat a safety, cornerback or linebacker in a short area, and his ability to contort his body and make a catch, is unlike any I’ve seen.”
Beckham’s all-around athleticism was obvious even on touchbacks, when he’d casually reach out with one hand to snag kickoffs sailing to the back of the end zone. One of his signature catches came in LSU’s victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl — a lunging, one-handed grab along the right sideline. He even returned a missed field goal more than 100 yards for a touchdown.
Beckham’s 2,315 all-purpose yards set an LSU record, and he received the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
Beckham and Landry have been close since meeting at a football camp in high school. During their three years at LSU, they spent breaks at either Beckham’s family home in New Orleans or the Landry’s place in Convent, a small Mississippi River town between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. They were constantly together at lunch, dinner, even at a few NBA games in New Orleans.
When dining together, Landry often grabs a straw and pops it through the wrapper before handing it to Beckham, the same way servers do at a popular New Orleans diner called the Camellia Grill — where Landry ate for the first time while visiting Beckham.
“I would love for us to end up on the same team somehow. I’m praying for it,” Beckham said.
If not, “the offseason will be a time we see each other. I know for a fact we’ll always be real close,” Beckham said. “He’s a special brother to me and one of my favorite people I’ve ever stepped on the field with. ... I don’t see anything changing, just distance.”
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