Draft Daily: Buzz Building on FSU WR Benjamin

In the past week or so, a number of analysts have linked Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin to the Eagles.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com said Benjamin is a player to keep an eye on for the Birds at No. 22. And Ron Jaworski recently compared Benjamin to Harold Carmichael.

At 6-5, 240, Benjamin is the most physically imposing wide receiver in this year’s class. He has 34 7/8-inch arms and 10 1/4-inch hands:

But as you can see, Benjamin tested poorly at the combine. He ran a 4.61 40, and per NFL.com, his 60-yard shuttle was the slowest of any receiver in the class.

Benjamin caught 54 balls for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He was fantastic downfield and made plays in the red zone for the national champion Seminoles.

The main quality that stands out about Benjamin is he knows who he is. Other receivers in this class are big, but don’t always use their size to their advantage. The opposite is true with Benjamin. He went on the field and played like he expected to physically overwhelm his opponent on nearly every snap.

By far, Benjamin’s biggest strength is making contested catches downfield. According to Rotoworld, 25 percent of his receptions came on throws 20+ yards downfield. And Benjamin’s average catch came 13.38 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Here’s an example against Clemson:

Benjamin lines up on the outside, and it’s pretty much a jump-ball. He goes up and gets it, shows good hands, excellent body control and comes down with the touchdown.

No player in this class is better when the ball’s in the air. Here, against Duke, Benjamin sets up the defensive back on the fade and does a fantastic job of finishing with a pair of defenders closing in.

Benjamin can manhandle defenders as a blocker too. Check out this crack-back block against N.C. State:

And this one on a screen:

Screens accounted for just 5.36 percent of Benjamin’s receptions, per Rotoworld. But here, he blocks on one and drives the defender out of bounds.

Given Benjamin’s lack of straight-line speed, the question NFL teams will have to ask is: Can he win consistently against man coverage? It’s worth noting that Benjamin is a 23-year-old prospect, meaning he was often playing against guys younger (and perhaps less developed physically) than him. That won’t be the case in the NFL.

Without the All-22, it’s pretty much impossible to gauge whether he played faster than he timed – specifically against man coverage. But there were some examples worth noting. Here’s one play against Duke where he’s blanketed:

And another where Benjamin runs a go-route down the sideline, but the cornerback sticks with him.

Then again, here against Florida, Benjamin runs the skinny post, beats man coverage and does a nice job tracking the ball down over his shoulder.

Of course, it’s worth noting that the CB on this play was Loucheiz Purifoy, who ran a 4.61 at the combine.

One aspect of Benjamin’s game I’m intrigued by is his ability to line up in different places. At first, I was operating under the assumption that he was purely an outside receiver who would do damage downfield and outside the numbers.

But in the Florida game, I noticed the Seminoles lined up him in the slot quite a bit, and he was effective:

He gets man coverage against the nickel corner, breaks three tackles and heads for the end zone.

I wonder how NFL defenses would match up with Benjamin in the slot. Smaller nickel backs are at a disadvantage with his size. And linebackers would have a hard time keeping up with him. It’s similar to the questions NFL defensive coordinators face when going up against some of the game’s best pass-catching tight ends.

Again, Benjamin didn’t line up inside a lot in college, but my guess is that’s something that Chip Kelly has thought about when watching his film.

Other times, Benjamin lined up behind the tackle to block in the run game:

Benjamin doesn’t do much on the play, but this is not something you even attempt with a smaller, less physical receiver.

A couple other plays that stood out. Here, once again, he’s in the slot. And check out the adjustment on the ball:

Benjamin was not a big YAC guy. He averaged 4.89 YAC per reception, according to Rotoworld. That was the lowest number among the top-15 WRs in this class.

But part of that was because Benjamin caught so many 50/50 balls downfield. At times, he showed he’s definitely difficult to bring down after the catch:

Benjamin is perhaps the most polarizing wide receiver in this class, and I had a tough time formulating a strong opinion of him one way or another.

On one hand, he’s tough, physical and terrific when the ball’s in the air – whether that’s on downfield throws or in the red zone. On the other hand, his lack of speed and overall athleticism is a bit of a concern, and considerable projection is necessary when determining whether he can be used in multiple roles at the next level.

Kelly has talked about the various ways receivers can beat man coverage. One is size; another is speed. He said he considers receivers elite when they possess both. Clearly, Benjamin does not have the latter. And consider this: In the last three drafts, only one wide receiver (Kendall Wright) who ran a 4.6 or worse at the combine was taken in the first two rounds.

It would not shock me if Kelly is intrigued by Benjamin, but considering the coach has baseline measurables for each position, the guess here is that the Eagles would be hesitant to pull the trigger on the Florida State product in the first round.