Boom vs Bust: Kelvin Benjamin Brings Great Risk to NFL Teams
We see it every year.
There's always a handful of NFL draft prospects who step up and simply blow everyone away with their physical abilities.
This time around it's Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
At 6'5" and 235 pounds, Benjamin is the kind of player who scouts and personnel guys drool over as he presents mismatches for NFL defenses.
But Benjamin is far from a perfect prospect and falling in love with physical measurements and raw athletic ability has proven to be a dangerous game for NFL teams.
Most people know Benjamin as the player who caught the game-winning touchdown in the BCS National Championship game, but as we go further into the pre-draft process you'll soon hear Benjamin's name more often.
He's going to be one of the hotly debated players leading up to the draft because he presents most of the attributes you're looking for in a No. 1 receiver, but there's just enough missing to give you cause for concern.
Bleacher Report's lead NFL draft writer Matt Miller sees the raw physical ability from Benjamin, but also notes two obvious issues.
Kelvin Benjamin has amazing size/length, does a great job high-pointing and boxing out, but drops the easy pass. Needs work as route runner— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 10, 2014
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com sees a lot of the same things as Miller when it comes to Benjamin's question marks.
Benjamin needs to show more development and focus at the catch point to complete catches and do a better job finishing with the ball. He is still raw in several areas, including his route running, but his long strides and natural tools makes him a very attractive prospect early in the draft.
One of the biggest undervalued or under-discussed traits for receiver prospects is their route-running ability. If you can't create separation against NFL defensive backs, you simply won't be thrown the ball.
Despite the physical mismatches created in "high pointing" or "jump ball" situations in discussing Benjamin's NFL future, the majority of plays require simple separation.
It's not as if this is a glaring weakness for Benjamin that should drop him in the draft, but you can't simply overlook these issues just because of his impressive physical tools.
The Kansas City Chiefs made the mistake a few years ago with former Pittsburgh receiver and first-round pick Jon Baldwin, who had all the physical abilities but lacked an impressive route-running ability.
The very last thing you want to hear about a receiver prospect is they're inconsistent in catching the football.
It's the very basis of what they're asked to do and somehow it's not a high-mark for a potential first-round pick?
That's cause for concern right there.
Drop rate for Kelvin Benjamin is high at around 9%. Some really easy drops for him - not sure if it's a concentration thing or what— Greg Peshek (@NU_Gap) December 19, 2013
Benjamin still caught 84 passes for 1,506 yards and 19 touchdowns in his two years at Florida State, so it's not as if he's always struggling to catch the football.
But when receivers get to the NFL the margin of error of catching the football is much smaller. The windows are tighter and the players closing those windows are faster.
It's a tough sell to a NFL General Manager to take a chance on a receiver in the first two rounds who struggles catching the football. That's not to take away his physical gifts, and either way Benjamin is still going in the first 50 picks, most likely.
But it's going to be a team who has a strong belief in their ability to develop and be patient with a receiver who is extremely raw.
Benjamin has every right to be considered "raw" after graduating from high school in just three years, redshirting a year at Florida State, then declaring for the NFL after just two seasons in Tallahassee.
He's had just five seasons of playing football since he got to high school.
Despite these two areas that are seen as "question marks" for Benjamin, there's no denying his flashes of brilliance on the football field.
With his combination of size, strength and speed, there's a NFL team out there who's willing to gamble on reaching that ceiling.
The highlight reel is impressive for Benjamin.
With Benjamin, you're not getting a final product.
You're getting a player who you can mold and develop into an elite player. The same can be said for all players though, honestly.
There are very rarely any "finished products" coming out of college today, but with Benjamin you're getting a player who either molds into something special, or becomes a goal line jump-ball receiver.
There aren't many spots on a 53-man roster for the latter.
If you were an NFL General Manager would you draft Kelvin Benjamin in the first round?
It's easy to fall in love with the highlight reel and whichever NFL team drafts him, its fans will undoubtedly fall in love with all of those plays.
We've seen this play out a few different ways with players of any position, not just receiver, who were naturally, physically gifted, and either developed into NFL starting caliber players or fizzled out for one reason or another.
The question NFL teams are going to need answered is how confident are they in developing Benjamin?
The talent and ceiling are there, but it's walking a fine-line when talking a receiver whose biggest knocks are route-running and catching the football.
Benjamin is a fascinating player to watch during this pre-draft process and the buzz will only continue to grow as he displays those physical abilities at his pro day and the combine.
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