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One of the hardest receivers to get a good handle on is the monster-sized, Kelvin Benjamin.  He is built closer to a tight end than a wide out as he measures out at 6’ 5”, weighs 240 lbs., and timed out at 4.61 for the 40 yard dash at the kbenjaminCombine.  I watched five of his 2013 Florida State games against: Duke, Auburn (national championship game), Florida, NC State and Boston College to get a cross-section of his skill set.  At first blush, he reminds me of a poor man’s version of Vincent Jackson, only bigger.

Benjamin lines up all over the field: in the slot, on the outside, at tight end, and sometimes gets sent in motion.  He is very explosive off the line, his hips snap quickly, and he gets leverage immediately.  Most teams play off coverage which gives him a chance to build up his speed. Benjamin is a long strider that needs space to get down the field quickly.  This is a mistake and I doubt many NFL teams will choose to defend him that way.  One of Florida’s best corner backs, Loucheiz Purifoy, did a good job battling him as he got a hand on him and stayed with him down the field.  Because Benjamin is so much bigger and stronger than most of the corners he will see, the receiver can muscle out most of them. 

When the receiver gets used as a run blocker, he is quite effective sealing off the edge with his big body.  He maintains contact while driving his man back and will discard a fallen defender to go after another one.  I don’t think I’ve seen such a devastating crack block from anyone else other than Hines Ward. While this isn’t necessarily fantasy/dynasty relevant, it is important that he should be a three down player which will increase his ability to be used in the offense.

While the super-sized wide out has a lot of pluses, I have some major concerns with his play.  On the majority of his receptions, the receiver traps the ball with his body.  This does not give him the chance to gain additional yardage after the catch and it also makes is more difficult for him to secure the ball which leaves him more open to fumbles or drops.  When he does try to catch the ball with his hands, Benjamin spends a lot of time double catching the pigskin.  I’m not sure if this is a concentration issue or just his lack of fluidity.  Part of his concentration issues is that he tends to run his routes deeper than the quarterback anticipates, and then the receiver gets caught waiting for the ball to get to him.  I saw him do this in all five games that I watched.  This tendency makes him easier to defend as defensive backs wait until the last-minute to snare the ball right in front of him.

It’s his rounding and inconsistent routes that will drive an offensive coordinator and quarterback crazy.  This makes Benjamin less than ideal as no one will be quite sure where he will be when a play needs to be made. The effort he puts into route running seems to vary quite a bit and is dependent on the likelihood of him being targeted.  The receiver really seems to perk up and increase his efforts near or in the end zone.  Benjamin also tends to turn and run with the ball before he has secured it.  When he takes the time to catch the ball with his hands, tuck it and run, it is difficult to bring him down.  This rookie receiver reminds me of that eighth grade kid who is athletically better than anyone else because he is so much bigger and stronger than everyone else.  The sad thing is everyone else gets bigger and adjusts in high school while he sits on his laurels. This might be the case with Benjamin in the NFL, unless he gets good coaching and/or a great role model like Cris Carter was to Randy Moss.  His balance is very inconsistent as he sometimes stumbles trying to make breaks and on the next play he will split three defensive backs making bucket catch.

The receiver has a lot of pluses that counteract many of his faults.  It’s his physicality that separates him from other wide out in his class as he uses his body to shield the ball from the defender and can swat smaller players out of his way with ease.  He can pluck the ball out of the air as he tracks the ball deep with good field vision.  Benjamin has little concern for bodies in his way as he fully extends himself to reach the ball at its highest point, leaping higher than everyone else, and secures the ball despite the traffic.  He needs the passes to be at his waist or higher as he struggles to catch lower targets.

If a quarterback can get him the ball on a bucket catch deep down the field, there is not a lot a defensive back can do to stop him.  There were many times, he simply put his hand up to let his quarterback know that he was behind the defense and he would just be playing pitch and catch, making it look effortless.  Benjamin has enough power and burst to knock off four defensive backs on his way to the end zone.  He knows where he is at all times on the field and uses the sidelines to help create separation.  The receiver uses a spin move every so often to keep the defense guessing.

While I really like the skills that Benjamin brings to the NFL, he certainly offers a lot of concerns as well. The wide out has not been a consistent performer in college as his lapses in concentration and effort concern me quite a bit.  I have him just outside of my top ten wide receivers, but may move him up if he finds himself in a target heavy situation.  There have been a few whispers of him switching to tight end, this might make him more fantasy relevant.

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