Draft Prospect: Kelvin Benjamin
Size and speed always get noticed in the NFL. At 6’5 and 240 pounds with 4.6 speed, former Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has both. The redshirt sophomore burst onto the scene in 2013 by catch 15 touchdowns and averaging 18.7 yards per reception. His breakout efforts were a big reason why the Seminoles took home the National Championship trophy. When he declared for the NFL draft, almost everyone was quick to pencil him in as a first round pick in mock drafts.
With the recent news that Benjamin blew off a private workout with an NFL coach because he was too tired, it’s a good time to re-visit his draft stock. That move certainly couldn’t have helped much, but he was an overrated prospect to begin with.
Benjamin’s size, big plays and highlight reel catches made some liken him to a “baby Megatron.” Of course, there aren’t many human beings on the planet quite like Calvin Johnson. Kelvin Benjamin showed at the combine he also isn’t one of them. His performance in Indianapolis fell well short of “freak” territory.
Kelvin Benjamin’s combine numbers:
- 4.61 40-yard dash
- 32-½ inch vertical jump
- 9’11” broad jump
- 7.33 3-cone drill
- 4.39 shuttle
Unexpected combine numbers should always force evaluators to go back to the film. A careful re-examination of Kelvin Benjamin’s game provides ample concerns…
The most glaring and clear flaw with Benjamin is his propensity for drops. Perhaps it’s a mere correctable concentration issue, but he does display some poor technique. Benjamin lets the ball get into his body and doesn’t bring his hands together before attempting a catch. If these issues persist into his pro career, he will lose the faith of his quarterback and new team in a hurry.
Despite his intimidating size, Benjamin isn’t physical enough at the line of scrimmage. Too often he allowed lesser cornerbacks to jam him at the line and bump him off his path. Beating press coverage will only get harder once he enters the NFL. If Benjamin doesn’t improve his hand usage or burst off the line, he will struggle to break into his routes.
Benjamin also isn’t physical enough at the catch point. That’s a big issue. His inconsistent route running doesn’t provide him with optimal separation from defenders. He will occasionally embarrass a cornerback with his sheer physical advantage, but it doesn’t happen with regularity. Benjamin doesn’t show the “my ball” mentality and it leads to some of those costly drops.
Projecting his NFL role
As with almost every prospect, Kelvin Benjamin has some positive traits and a role to play. His size would lead you to believe he is an outside X or Z receiver, but he is best lined up as the Y-receiver in the slot. As an inside pass catcher, Benjamin is able to win with size against smaller cornerbacks. He also doesn’t have to worry about making the difficult catches and it might help alleviate his drop issues. Benjamin’s drops rarely seem to come from a fear of hits over the middle.
With the raging success of slot receivers like Wes Welker, NFL teams are looking to further maximize that position. Some choose to line up bigger receivers inside to create a matchup advantage. You’ll sometimes see the Lions place Calvin Johnson in the slot, as he is unstoppable on slant routes. The Saints use tight end Jimmy Graham as an over-sized slot receiver and he’s impossible to defend there. They play different positions, but Benjamin compares to tight ends with more favor than other wide receivers from a metrics standpoint.
His short area quickness leaves a lot to be desired and affects his route running skills. Benjamin does excel at breaking off at the stem of his routes. He changes directions well on the deep post and flag routes. Those are the type of patterns Benjamin’s future team should focus on with him as a big slot receiver, especially the in-breaking routes.
If his future team utilizes Kelvin Benjamin as a Y-receiver, or move him to tight end, he could have a lot of success in the league. He just doesn’t have the initial burst or catching ability to consistently win on the outside.
NFL Draft stock
After being widely projected as a mid-to-late first round pick, the shine has worn off Kelvin Benjamin lately. The metrics crowd wasn’t pleased with his average combine performance. The film group noticed the troubling inconsistencies.
It would be inadvisable for a team to draft Benjamin in the first round. His deficiencies on the field make him much more of a project than a player at this point. To make matters worse, he will be 23-years-old at draft time despite entering as a sophomore. It’s easy to bank on a player’s upside if they are young, but the potential gets tapped out as player’s age. There’s no counting on Benjamin correcting his flaws and even if he does, he might be 27 by the time he’s ready and developed.
As far as the skipped workout goes, maybe Benjamin had a legitimate reason. The reports sure don’t cast him in a favorable light. He had plenty of concerns on the field and he didn’t need to go creating any more questions off the gridiron.
For an older project player with an overrated ceiling, there shouldn’t be any first round discussion. Benjamin will more than likely fall to the second day. With a Dwayne Jarrett, Jonathan Baldwin type of floor, he would be safest as a third round selection.
Fantasy Projection[ad id=”Ad1″]
As always with draft prospects, his fantasy value will come down to team fit and situation. It’s impossible to project Kelvin Benjamin’s re-draft value today and it’s hard to advise on where to take him in dynasty formats.
If Benjamin goes to a team like New Orleans he could be successful and perhaps right away. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have had success with another over-sized slot receiver in Marques Colston. Benjamin could even help fill the massive hole the Saints will have if their salary cap woes force them to part with Jimmy Graham next season.
Should a team like the Jets or Panthers (who need immediate help outside) draft Benjamin, he’ll be in trouble. We already know Benjamin has too many deficiencies to succeed as an X or Z receiver right away. Throwing him into the fire too early without the seasoning he needs could damage his career outlook.
Benjamin’s height and weight presents the tantalizing chance he’ll be a red zone threat. His college tape suggests even that might be a stretch. You’re better off counting on rookie prospects that will bring more consistent production in re-draft leagues.
As a dynasty owner, it’s all about risk management and patience. Kelvin Benjamin could pay off for you down the road, but it might take several years and the proper team for it all to come together. You’ll have to find that sweet spot in your rookie drafts where the risk of taking on a potential dud won’t sacrifice your team’s stability. NFL teams will face the same task in early may.
Matt is an NFL writer and analyst. A lover of all things music, sociology, and television shows, and love to talk about those in addition to football. I also own a number of stupid theories about life you probably will not be interested in, but I will trick you into listening to.