Jarvis Landry, No. 7, is a recent wide receiver for LSU. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:42 PM
If the NFL is a strange place to begin with, then surely the NFL combine is the lunatic ward.
There they try to turn football, an emotionally macho game, into an exact science.
The only thing missing are the white lab coats as middle-aged men with notebooks jot down notes and study stopwatches to the hundredth of a second.
Oh, they know better, insisting it’s only a guide.
But I have a theory as to why they moved the draft to May this year.
It puts more of a buffer between the combine, gives them time to dilute the track meet with some honest football film, and lessens the chance of impulse buying on draft day.
That said, there’s a real puzzler this year — Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, recent LSU wide receivers.
It’s why I don’t understand the NFL draft.
Since Michael Clayton 10 years ago, LSU has had 10 wide receivers drafted, seven of them in the first three rounds, including three first-rounders.
Beckham and Landry will be next.
But that’s where the confusion starts.
I would be comfortable saying that Beckham and Landry were the best two wide receivers LSU ever put on the field.
And, yes, that’s knowing that in 2006 JaMarcus Russell was throwing to a pair of soon-to-be first-round picks, Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis, and another, Early Doucet, who was taken in the third round the next year.
I’d go further.
It’s worth arguing, but for my money Landry and Beckham were not only the best two, but also the two best.
Top of the heap. No. 1 and No. 1A.
That one’s open for debate, but at least one of them per game would make a highlight catch, or a play, that would take your breath away.
Sometimes each would get a dazzler per game — the kind of thing you might see twice a season in years past.
I don’t know what’s not to like about either of them — and if I had to choose, I don’t know which pair of hands (and feet) you’d take with the game on the line. But either would be a safe bet.
Beckham might be a little flashier, but Landry is probably a safer bet for the tougher catch in traffic and is a relentless blocker when his number isn’t called, be it a pass or a run.
Beckham seemed to get open easier, but Landry fought through coverages with singular purpose and somehow got to the ball.
Beckham is also a restaurant-quality return man, suitable for any NFL team, so maybe that gives him a slight edge.
But Landry is as tough and as good as you want to find on all other aspects of special teams, the thankless jobs of coverage and clearing holes.
Beckham did have that little show-off routine three or four times this year when, standing at the back of the end zone awaiting a long kickoff, he’d reach up over his head for a one-handed snag of a 70-yard kick as nonchalantly as an outfielder on a routine fly ball.
But to choose between them, I’d have to flip a coin.
The NFL experts aren’t having that problem.
Neither had any reason to stick around LSU for their senior seasons, but this isn’t really a good year for a wide receiver to be coming out. There’s a glut of really, really good ones available, which pushed all of them down in the pecking order.
But to the NFL types it’s pretty cut and dry between Beckham and Landry.
Going into the combine the feeling was that Beckham might sneak into the first round and that Landry is a later round pick, maybe third, probably later.
We all watched these guys side by side for three years at LSU. When you split the hairs, is there that much difference?
The combine probably only widened the gap.
Beckham was one of the workout stars.
His 4.43 in the sacred 40-yard dash was right where it should have been, and he was even better in the quick and fluid drills — 3.34 in the 20-yard shuttle, 6.69 in the three-cone, 10/93 in the 60-yard shuttle.
The extreme athleticism was there with a 38.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 2-inch standing broad jump (and how the standing broad jump helps on third-and-7 I have no idea).
Landry had a disaster.
He came up a foot shorter than Beckham in both jumps — so how did he possibly climb the ladder to make that end zone catch against Arkansas two years ago? — and his lumbering 4.77 in the 40 was the slowest among the combine’s wide receivers.
He supposedly “tweaked” a hamstring in the 40 and didn’t do the quickness drills.
I guarantee you that if the “tweak” had happened in the middle of an actual game, Landry would not have missed the next play.
But the combine turns football players into prima donna track stars.
LSU once had a sprinter who wouldn’t have a go at the 100 meters of the SEC track meet because he’d left his personal running shoes at home and didn’t feel comfortable in a teammate’s borrowed spikes.
Presumably a healthy Landry will have a chance to make amends at LSU’s pro day in April, when the scientists come in for a second look and follow-up data.
But having watched these good friends’ friendly competition over the last three years, it’s shocking that there could be that much difference in their measurables.
I’m sure of this much. Two NFL teams are going to get ready-made wide receivers.
One of them apparently is going to get quite a bargain.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org