Sift your way through the forums and comment sections here at Russell Street Report, and you’ll find plenty of fans presenting draft possibilities at wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. Many options make sense in such a deep wide receiver class. But one name doesn’t make sense.
Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
Skyrocketing his media hype after catching the game-winning touchdown in this year’s BCS National Championship Game, fans (and likely many NFL teams) have salivated over the possibility of drafting a 6’5, 240 pound receiver.
How often do receivers with body types like Benjamin’s come around? Not very often.
Toss in his near-35-inch arms and 10 ¼” hands, and you’re looking at a receiver who exceeds the physical prototype.
That likely led to intrigue from the Ravens front office, as the team met with Benjamin at the combine.
Coming from the national championship team further helps his cause.
But is his hype justified?
Watch any of his Florida State games, and it’s hard to buy into him.
Considered as a possible first-round pick, Benjamin rarely showed any on-field skills during his short college career to make him worthy of a high selection. The physical traits are hard to ignore, but dig deeper into his play, and there’s a receiver with glaring flaws, making him someone who has more development to undergo than you want out of a top draft pick.
The first flaw in Benjamin’s game are his hands, and calling them inconsistent would be an understatement. He continually dropped easy, uncontested passes during his career; drops that were simply inexcusable.
Here’s just one example of many:
Had this type of drop been a rare occurrence, it wouldn’t be too much of a concern. But Benjamin dropped passes on a weekly basis, and the fact that he has larger hands than most receivers makes this flaw even less excusable.
Benjamin’s drops were such a theme that you can even find a video dedicated solely to his drops.
The other flaw in Benjamin’s game is his route running, which is as unrefined as any of the top receivers in this year’s draft.
This seems to stem from Benjamin’s inability to control his large frame, as he often plays unbalanced and struggles to keep his body together when at full speed.
For a large specimen like Benjamin, his size will often get him out of tough situations, but if put in an offense where his route will determine whether or not he’ll even be considered in the play, it’s hard to see him getting many catch opportunities.
In and out of breaks, Benjamin often decelerates greatly, as he has to re-gather his balance before his cut.
Showing his route running isn’t an easy task, but to get a feel for how uncomfortable and unbalanced he often looks while running, take a look at his 40-yard dash from the combine.
His two glaring flaws – hands and route running – are both fixable problems, although often if a receiver has bad hands, they’re stuck with them for the long haul. If Benjamin can’t catch the easy passes now, he likely never will on a consistent basis, and whichever team drafts him will have to simply deal with that fact.
Route running, however, can often be a much easier problem to correct with quality coaching.
There’s one major concern with that, though.
Benjamin, who played just two years of college football, is already 23 years old.
In comparison, he is only about six months younger than Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who has been in the NFL for three seasons. For a player with plenty of problems to fix, Benjamin’s window of growth will be shorter than the other receivers in this year’s draft. He’ll need to have the ability to rapidly improve at the next level; however, with the work he has to do, it’s hard to see him correcting all of his flaws.
Right now, Benjamin is a height/weight/speed player with ball skills.
Ravens fans just went through the Tommy Streeter project two years ago. Why go through a similar process again?
Benjamin doesn’t figure to have as poor of an NFL career as Streeter has had thus far, as he possess better traits than Streeter had coming out of Miami, particularly his ball skills. However, when Benjamin is drafted, a team will be taking the risk the Ravens took with Streeter: hoping a physical specimen and athletic freak turns into a starting receiver.
The gamble didn’t work for the Ravens, but Benjamin did show off repeated impressive plays on the ball that will at least make him a red zone threat early in his career (and possibly for his entire career if he never fully develops).
Benjamin can redirect and high point balls in the end zone, which is his best trait.
His most notable play of the season may have been against Clemson.
But he can also do this in the end zone.
At a minimum, Benjamin can be the type of receiver Plaxico Burress was for the New York Jets in 2011. In that season Burress caught 45 passes, but scored eight touchdowns.
Benjamin doesn’t provide much value between the 20s right now, but can still be a red zone threat.
However, is a red zone specialist worthy of consideration as a possible first-round pick?
In such a deep and diverse draft class, there are plenty of more desirable options than Benjamin, particularly where the Ravens are concerned. Baltimore could use a red zone threat, but reaching for a player like that isn’t an ideal method.
If he was available in later rounds, Benjamin would become a more realistic option, as there is less risk in taking him and possibly finding out he never develops.
Here’s to hoping another team overvalues Benjamin, and not the Ravens.
Screenshots were taken from videos on DraftBreakdown.com.