We are in full blown draft mode now as we continue providing draft scouting reports on players. Several of these profiles will be centered around players that we believe the Pittsburgh Steelers will be interested in selecting in the 2014 NFL Draft.
To kick things off this week, we’ll discuss Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Kelvin Benjamin/WR Florida State: 6’5 234
– Size to dominate
– Long strider
– High points ball well
– Uses body to shield on crossing routes
– Adjust to ball flight well
– Strong hands
– Red zone threat in 2013
– Willing blocker
– Gets off line against press without issue
– Tough to bring down after catch
– Not a burner
– Raw route runner
– Doesn’t work back to the football
– Lacks great burst off of line
– Will be 23 in February
– Loses focus at times
– Has had drop issues
– Struggled with weight in past
– 2013 All-ACC Second Team
– 62.1% catch rate in 2013
– 18.7 average per catch in 2013
– 15 touchdowns and 22 explosive plays in 2013
Benjamin created quite a buzz in 2013 as a red shirt sophomore and played a big part in FSU winning the National Championship. In fact, he scored the game-winning touchdown against Auburn as he used his size, hands and leaping ability to his advantage in the end zone.
Benjamin, however, is not without his warts. For starters, he developed late and has admitted that he had maturity issues that he had to work through. He is a kid that doesn’t fully grasp just how good he can be.
While he is not a burner, Benjamin can certainly get over the top of defenders with his long stride and physicality. He is tough to press and usually gets a free release in the direction that he wants to go.
As you can see in the play below, Benjamin uses a great step inside along with his right arm to create a free release to the outside against Boston College. His long stride instantly provides him the necessary separation for an easy catch.
While Benjamin certainly uses his height and build to his advantage, I can’t find many instances of him working back to quarterback. You can see an example below where his failure to do so results in an interception and him ultimately ending up on his butt because of a block. Had he worked back towards the ball instead waiting for it, it would have likely resulted in an easy catch and a first down.
While Benjamin is a very raw route runner in my opinion, he shows promise. You can watch him below turn the young Duke cornerback around by keeping a constant speed with this outside nod corner route. This pass ended up incomplete, however, and it might not have been had Benjamin angled out his corner break more instead of flattening like he did.
Once again, Benjamin’s long stride makes up for lack of elite speed and he sets his inside break up nicely in the gif below for a great deep catch against Florida. Notice the separation even with the ball in the air.
Benjamin’s drops really stick out like a sore thumb on tape and as good of game that he had against Florida, the drops where there. This is concentration issue and him wanting to get up the field before watching the football all of the way in. It’s not like he is a consistent body catcher, so I believe he can get coached past this issue.
On this slant, Benjamin secures the football and becomes a nightmare for defensive backs on his way to the end zone as he is so hard to bring down because of his size. I’m not a fan of him rounding that break inside off, however, as he tips it off. Once again, he needs a lot of polishing when it comes to route running and technique.
In 2013, Benjamin was targeted 12 times inside the red zone and the seven balls that he caught all went for touchdowns. This just isn’t fair for the Duke cornerback in the gif below, who actually does a good job of recovering after he is swam over. I think Benjamin could have created even more separation here had he not slowed so much at the top of his break.
Benjamin appears to be able to judge the flight of the football well in the three games that I watched along with several highlights from other games and this red zone touchdown reception against Florida best illustrates that. This is stealing.
Benjamin has drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson and when you watch his tape it’s easy to tell why. He definitely won’t be the first wide receiver off the board and thus I expect him to be drafted either in the bottom third of the first round or by the middle of the second round at the very latest. How he interviews and performs at the combine might play a big role in when he ultimately gets drafted.
Success at the NFL level is not guaranteed for Benjamin, but I wouldn’t bet against it happening. I really think that he still doesn’t fully understands just how good he can be. He is an instant mismatch against undersized cornerbacks and once he makes his mark at the next level it will force defensive coordinators to game plan in taking him away with help over the top.
My biggest worry about Benjamin is how he will react to being taken away and not thrown to early in games. Will he lose focus and as a result not be ready when the time comes for him to make a big play? He has admitted that he’s struggled with that in college.
As far as the Steelers go, I think 15 might be too early for him and as a result, he isn’t likely to be on the board come time for them to pick in the second round. If he does somehow fall that far and it is not character related, I don’t see how they could pass on him. I really think that this kid will be a monster in the NFL and if he doesn’t land with the Steelers, I certainly hope that he doesn’t land on another team within the division. I have had a draft crush on him for quite a while.
Projection: Top Thirty
Games Watched: at Florida, at Boston College, vs Duke (Bowl)