A year after being selected at the top of the second round of the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, Dorial Green-Beckham is already playing on his second NFL team. The 23-year-old received an early lesson on the business side of professional football when he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The move by the Titans was unusual in many ways. Green-Beckham didn’t play particularly bad as a rookie. In fact, he had more receiving yards and touchdown receptions than six of the receivers drafted ahead of him last year. Amari Cooper, the No. 4 overall draft pick, was the only receiver that put up better stats.
It is also rare for an NFL team to give up on such a high draft pick so soon. But there Green-Beckham was last Thursday night, two days after being traded, stepping onto the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an Eagles uniform, surrounded by new teammates and coaches.
It’s safe to say he didn’t live up to Tennessee’s expectations.
Perhaps those expectations were too lofty considering the circumstances. This is only Green-Beckham’s second year in the league. There is still plenty of room for growth and development. Not every player drafted is going to bust out of college and have a Pro Bowl season like Cooper did in his first year in the NFL.
The situation wasn’t necessarily ideal for a rookie to have a breakout season in Tennessee. Green-Beckham was catching passes from a fellow rookie in quarterback Marcus Mariota for the first 12 games of the regular season, and then he was stuck with Zach Mettenberger throwing passes the rest of the way when Mariota went down with an injury.
Through all of that, he was still the best receiver on the Titans stat sheet. Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker was the only player on the field to have better offensive production through the air. And it still wasn’t enough to get a second look from the team that drafted him.
Green-Beckham certainly didn’t come without flaws.
He was terribly inconsistent on the practice field and in games. There were times when he looked the part of a great NFL receiver and times when he looked like a rookie. The hot and cold play was something that particularly seemed to irk Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, who was constantly vocal of Green-Beckham’s shortcomings.
“Nobody wants to please and do good for this team more than he does,” Mularkey told the official team website. “And I know that. He’s just got to find a way to come out every day and make the plays that are called his way. That’s got to be every day, and it just hasn’t been that way. I’d say [he’s] inconsistent still. It’s bad day, good day, same thing since the very first day.”
So the Titans shipped him to the Eagles in exchange for fifth-year offensive tackle Dennis Kelly.
The emergence of rookie Tajae Sharpe and signing of former Miami Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews sent Green-Beckham tumbling down the depth chart. Perhaps the Titans were going to cut him down the road and figured they’d at least get something in return. In any case, they rolled the dice in letting a one-year player walk for virtually nothing.
Green-Beckham might have failed to live up to expectations early in Tennessee, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to do the same in Philadelphia. Their expectations for such a young player might be a bit more realistic by conventional standards.