As we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.
College: Florida State
Hands: 10 1/4”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.61
Vertical Jump: 32 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 11”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.39
Background (College Stats)
Benjamin, who was considered the eighth-best receiver in his recruiting class, took his four-star talent to the Seminoles after three years with high school powerhouse Glades Central (Fla.). He redshirted in 2011 and put together a modest campaign in his first season on the field, playing in 13 games – but did not start any of them – registering 30 catches for 495 yards and four touchdowns on an offense led by the somewhat erratic future NFL first-round QB E.J. Manuel. Benjamin’s draft stock shot up in a big way in 2013, however, as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston seemingly got more done from the pocket than Manuel ever could. In his only season with Winston under center, Benjamin averaged a touchdown every 3.6 receptions – the second-best mark in the country among wide receivers – and needed only 54 catches to go over the 1,000-yard mark (1,011, to be exact) and score an ACC-best 15 times. Making those numbers even more impressive was the fact that Florida State rarely needed much from him in the second half of games during its national championship run. For what it is worth, Benjamin reportedly blew off a planned workout with a NFL coach who had made a “special trip” to see him in mid-April, claiming he was too tired – presumably due to all the workouts he had finished leading up to that point.
NFL Player Comp(s): Plaxico Burress
- Extremely rare size and wingspan creates incredible catch radius and allows him to shield off defenders on short/intermediate throws as well as dominate in the red zone.
- Size and strength makes him a handful for a defensive back to tackle in the open field; also has the toughness and willingness to work in between the hashmarks.
- Has uncommon body control for a player of his dimensions.
- Long strider who is faster than his timed speed; shows impressive burst with the ball after the catch as defenders rarely close on him once he gets going.
- Should excel in downfield/deep-ball situations immediately; tracks the ball well over either shoulder.
- Not the most sure blocker, but has shown the ability to “knock the block” off a defender when properly inspired.
- Tight end-like size makes it harder for him to sink his hips and transition in and out of his cuts during a route, characteristics that make him more ideally suited for more straight-line downfield throws (as opposed to double moves).
- Average quickness means he tends to create most of his separation with the ball in the air; as such, he relies a bit too much on his physicality, making him susceptible to interference calls.
- Suffers from “focus drops” and double-catches; does not always secure the catch as quickly as he should in part because he lets the ball get into his body too often.
- Allows the ball to get too far away from his body after the catch.
- Ball skills – while terrific at times – are erratic; does not always attack or come back to the ball in the air.
It doesn’t take too long to realize why people have a love-hate relationship with Benjamin and consider him a boom-or-bust prospect. Look no further than the Seminoles’ 2013 game against Florida to see him at his best (scored three times, including once on a beautiful red-zone touchdown reception in which he looked over both shoulders to track down a lower-than-expected throw on a corner route and still caught it effortlessly) and his worst (three drops) in the same game. One look at his 2013 game-by-game log reveals he evolved from a secondary to primary option, showing a marked improvement in a number of areas as the year progressed. It should also be noted that when Florida State needed a play in the final seconds to beat Auburn in the national championship, it was Benjamin who was on the receiving end of the go-ahead score. He is a scary projection for teams because he is a size and talent mismatch for most defenses, but is also a 23-year-old raw rookie that is about 5-10 pounds away from forcing coaches to consider moving him to tight end. Players like Benjamin will always have a place in the NFL because there are so few defenders that can even dream of matching him physically. Benjamin has Demaryius Thomas-like upside assuming he wants it bad enough and the quarterback play he receives in the NFL is respectable. He is raw just like Thomas was coming out of Georgia Tech, but a lot of detailed work on the practice field over the next 1-2 years could allow Benjamin to become something very special – like he was near the end of the 2013 season against Florida (9-212-3 line) and Duke (5-119-2).