FanPost

Why Eric Ebron should beat out Kelvin Benjamin

There has been a lot of recent talk touting Kelvin Benjamin as a target for the Steelers' pick at 1:15. "A WR who can almost double as a TE." I prefer Eric Ebron as the pick - a TE who can double as a WR - because I think he does more things better.

First, I want to dispel the obvious argument that I would use in favor of Benjamin: the Steelers need a receiving weapon much more than they need a Tight End. Yes, Heath has only a few more years in the tank, and yes, it is always good policy to draft for what you will need in 2-3 years. But the same is just as true for Cotchery (if he comes back at all) and in the meantime a 3rd WR has at least as much value as a 2nd TE. More for us, since we can trust Spaeth as a 2nd TE but we don't have as much trust in the potential of Moye or Gilbert.

So I am going to analyze this ONLY on the basis of each prospect's value as a receiving weapon. Blocking is a part of that job too, but a much lesser one. I am going to ignore that asset simply to make the point. After thinking it over for way too much time, I came up with the following list of a dozen assets that go into making a good receiving weapon:

  • Long Speed - Game speed, confirmed by 40 time.
  • Quick Speed - The make-you-miss ability combined with acceleration off the line.
  • Route Running - Film, confirmed by 3-cone drill
  • Good Hands - On film, do you see great catches?
  • Reliable Hands - Is there a problem with drops?
  • Catch in Traffic - Does he fight for the ball or get alligator arms?
  • Body Control and General Athleticism - Does he twist and turn well, particularly for back shoulder catches? How good is he as an athlete aside from the specific demands of the job?
  • Scheme Versatility - How often does he have to come off the field?
  • Mismatches - How often does he require double coverage or special attention?
  • Height/Catch Radius - Includes leaping ability, and arm length. Plays in with body control.
  • Blocking - Yes, receivers block too.
  • Intangibles - Are there known problems or emphatic high points?

Ebron

Benjamin

Long Speed

4.5-ish

4.6-ish

Quick Speed

Good

Good

Route Running

Better (+1)

Good

Good Hands (Difficult Catches)

Good

Good

Reliable Hands (Lack of Drops)

Good

Good

Catch in Traffic

Good

Good

Body Control & Athleticism

Good

Good

Scheme Versatility

Better (+1)

Good

Mismatches

Good

Good

Size & Catch Radius

Good

Better (+1)

Blocking

IGNORE

IGNORE

Intangibles

Good

Good

Both young men are superb prospects, so this is an exercise in looking for who does something well when the other guy does it exceptionally well. Let's go down the list:

Long Speed - I'm calling this a tie. A tenth of a second is a small difference, Benjamin had a lousy start, and the 40 is a relatively useless test in any case,. Both men will run by a typical LB, and neither man is going to be running away from a DB. Neither has an advantage worth speaking about.

Quick Speed - Call this one a tie as well. Both men are tremendously agile for a Tight End, and average at best for a Wide Receiver. Again, they have quickness that will beat a typical LB and won't beat an NFL DB.

Route Running - Ebron has a reputation as a superb route runner, and Benjamin as an average one. I discount that a bit because "for a Tight End" should be added to Ebron's ranking, but even so it earns a +1.

Good Hands - Both men make great circus catches and one-handed grabs. It's an asset they share.

Reliable Hands - Both men suffer from occasional concentration drops. It's a flaw they share.

Catch in Traffic - Both men battle fiercely for the ball, especially in critical situations. Again, it is an asset that sets them apart from other players but not from each other.

Body Control and General Athleticism - As the NFL.com site puts it, Benjamin:

"climbs the ladder, plucks the ball at its highest point and regularly snatches it out of the air with superb body control and the grace of a ballerina."

How do you match something like that? Here's the report on Ebron:

"Terrific balance, agility and body control [who has] also played Defensive End."

I've called that a tie, but you make your own call.

Scheme Versatility - Not even close. Ebron is an every-down player who creates special problems if the team goes to a double-TE set. He is the absolute prototype for what you want in a hurry-up offense. Benjamin would probably come off the field on downs where only two WR's are called for. In their rookie years both would come off more in deference to the veteran savvy of Cotchery and Spaeth, but I think that cuts evenly.

Mismatches - Have to call this a tie. Neither man will require a double team for the sake of pure coverage, but both men have the ability to beat anyone they're paired against at the site of the catch.

Height/Catch Radius - Benjamin has arms that are 1-1/2" longer, stands an inch taller, and jumps ½" higher. Give him the edge by 3".

Blocking - Are you kidding? This is so one-sided that ... Oh wait. I've ruled it off limits. Ignore that man behind the mirror.

Intangibles - I haven't heard about any particular issues for either young man. Nor has either been touted as a brilliant leader of men and driver of locker room unity.

Ebron is 20 years old and Benjamin is 23. I don't think that's a big deal, but factor it in if you want to.

BOTTOM LINE: Ebron has a small advantage in Route Running and a distinct advantage in Scheme Versatility. Benjamin has a small advantage in Catch Radius. 2-to-1, Ebron wins. Once could argue that Benjamin ought to get a small advantage for General Athleticism, but if that card gets played you have to give Ebron at least as big an advantage when it comes to Blocking. Again, advantage Ebron.

That about covers it except for one thing more ... other players available in the draft. A/k/a the cherry on top. If the Steelers go offense in the 1st, there is zero chance they will go back to the offensive side in the 2nd. So would it be possible to find contributing players at the other's position from 3:COMP on?

For WR's, the answer is a definite "Yes". This is an extraordinary class for WR's in the first two rounds, but it is also a very good class for WR's in the mid- and late- rounds. Depth can be found throughout and the Steelers have proven their ability to find WR's in that range.

For TE's ... not so much. There are maybe 4-5 TE candidates who might be worth a shot in rounds 4-6, but it is an average class at best. If the Steelers don't get a TE in the first two rounds it would be a mild surprise if they picked one at all.

So there you have it. I vote for Ebron over Benjamin, because he is almost as good as a WR, significantly better as a WR/TE hybrid, and incomparably better as a pure TE, plus the fact that alternative pure WR's will be available throughout the draft while alternative TE's will not.

Come and get me.

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