Rookie Spotlight: Kelvin Benjamin

Jeff Haverlack

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida St.
6’5”/240 Lbs.- 40: 4.61
Hands: 10 ¼”

First Impressions

benjaminWith Sammy Watkins a sure-fire 1.01 selection and Mike Evans the odds-on favorite to lock down the 1.02 selection in most fantasy drafts, things don’t really get interesting until pick 1.03 in rookie drafts.  To wit, in my most recent rookie mock draft, I was randomly given the 1.03 selection and saddled with the most difficult decision in the first round.

On my board, selections 1.03 – 1.09, pre draft, are extremely close and with multiple names potentially worthy.  Ultimately I selected Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, but I’m far less confident with that pick the more tape I watch of this year’s rookie receivers.  I felt it only fair to return to tape of my original 1.03 selection, Kelvin Benjamin.

A monster of a receiver at 6’5” and 240 lbs., Benjamin could easily play a move tight end role if needed.  I say “easily” somewhat tongue in cheek as a move of that sort certainly would not be easy.  But Benjamin has the size for such a move should a creative coordinator so desire.

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Looking at Benjamin’s impressive frame, the first thing I noted was his huge (10 ¼) hands.  Big hands often equate to the ability to snatch the football well, secure the ball quickly and come down with difficult catches.  Combine this with an enormous 35” wingspan and you have a player with what should be a huge catch radius.  On the down side, Benjamin’s weight obviously holds down his unpadded leaping ability as he could only muster 32.5” in the vertical jump during the NFL Combine, which was somewhat disappointing.

He did run a 4.61 forty, about as expected if not, perhaps, a tad quicker.  For his part, I thought he looked faster than his timed 40 for what that is worth.

Benjamin only put together one solid campaign, hauling in 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns at Florida State. With productivity an important component for receiver evaluation at the next level, we’ll need to see special ability on tape to suggest better pro numbers.

Tape Review

There’s no doubt Benjamin is every bit of his 6’5” frame.  This may seem to be a ludicrous statement, but he knows how to use his body to shield and gain ball leverage on defenders.  Many large receivers aren’t athletic enough to excel in this area.  While Benjamin doesn’t get top marks, he’s more than adequate.  Additionally, given his height, I’d like to see more high-point ability, where the receiver climbs the ladder to make the reception at the ball’s highest point.  Benjamin’s size, when combined with his arm length, should more than provide a decided high-point advantage when needed.  That all said, Benjamin shows a willingness to get airborne for a contested pass, but does not routinely climb the ladder to an impressive degree.  I say “routinely” due to the fact Benjamin has shown the ability on occasion.

Large hands cannot be taught, but nor do they guarantee a level of strength at catching all surfaces of the ball or improvement in catch percentage.  Hearing Benjamin sometimes fights the ball leading to dropped passes, I was keenly on the lookout for hand usage.  First, I noted he has the ability to reverse his hands somewhat naturally, as well as rotating thumbs-out for balls at the waist or below, while naturally snatching thumbs-in when the ball arrived over the waist and on target.  I didn’t see many instances where Benjamin “fought” the ball, but his hands did show periods of inconsistency.  When watching these cases again specifically for hands usage, I believe KB’s issues are more in the area of concentration and discipline than due to catching mechanics.  What does this mean?  Just as James Jones has become a far better receiver after vying for the league lead in dropped passes in multiple years, so too will Benjamin need to put in work in this area – this is what we want to see with a young receiver allowing too many balls to hit the ground.  Mechanics appear to be fine, but catching discipline will need to increase.  Ability is present.

In the area of route-running, Benjamin is a ‘rounder,’ my term for receiver lacking suddenness at the top of his route(s).  Instead of proper breaks at the top of routes, he tends to round and roll into the break.  This is a lazy characteristic born out of a player used to gaining advantage via body-size or leaping ability.  At the next level, he’ll need to learn proper route-running characteristics in addition to far more limbs on the route tree.  He also doesn’t show a consistent desire to fight back toward the quarterback on hooks and out patterns.  Combine this fact with being a ‘rounder’ and he has the potential to be chasing opposing cornerbacks down the sideline on their way to a pick-six.

Benjamin would seemingly fit best at a Z role, playing off the line of scrimmage to allow for space to be used to aid his big body vs. more physical NFL corners. Lacking suddenness off the line of scrimmage will allow these corners to get into Benjamin’s body, disrupting his route and timing with the quarterback. Instances were present on tape that leads me to believe that more suddenness is in his tank, but is not yet consistently evident off the line at this point in his career.

Kelvin Benjamin tracks the ball well from his quarterback.  He has a keen awareness about ball location and the ability to get his head around to provide for the best opportunity for a reception.  His hand eye coordination is well above average and it’s obvious he trusts his hands and awareness to bring down the tough balls, reacting well to outside-shoulder throws or adjusting to balls off-target.  His catch radius isn’t elite as of yet but he seems to have the ability for ascension in this area.

With the ball in his hands he’s a load to bring down.  Would-be tacklers taking poor angles or looking to torso tackle are in a for a rude awakening.  Couple his size with a wide base (foundation) that is almost cat-like and a player with great balance results.  Benjamin’s feet often find their way into perfect spacing below his torso when leaping or absorbing first-contact, providing for after the catch run ability.

In the run game, his blocking needs serious refinement.  Again, he seems to rely on his big frame to be the primary obstacle while not seemingly interested in gaining leverage on his opponent.  Often times, he ends up holding or grabbing jersey after being beaten via poor mechanics.  He should be much better in this area.


When evaluating Kelvin Benjamin, I was sincerely hoping to find enough to clearly label him as a high-upside 1.03 fantasy selection.  On the back of tape review, I cannot, with confidence, suggest him at 1.03 without a corresponding drop in value from a couple of names currently higher on my board (Brandin Cooks and Marqise Lee).  But, his rare size, God-given characteristics and sufficient on-tape ability provide enough upside that he may slip into the top five rookie selections should his drafted situation be intriguing.

For now, Benjamin appears to be a 1.06 selection in 2014 fantasy drafts, +/- one position, a rating that may change as more receivers are reviewed.  My gut is screaming at me that Kelvin Benjamin will be a player who develops into a fine pro.  It’s to his benefit that his draft stock currently sits as a late first round selection, read that as “a better team.”


jeff haverlack