Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is a man among boys.
Literally, in a sense.
Being held back two grades as a kid would certainly give a guy the leg up over his classmates in terms of age. But his size, regardless of his age, is tantalizing for any team wishing to take advantage of jump ball situations in the red zone, or throwing to a humungus moving target across the middle of the field.
For as big as Benjamin is, he plays the game more in line with someone at the age of his classmates, not as a guy two years older.
This makes him the most intriguing offensive prospect available in this year's draft.
For Steelers fans, the comparisons to Plaxico Burress are impossible to avoid. His long limbs and general lankiness make him eerily similar to the ex-Steelers receiver (and eighth overall pick in 2000). Connecting him again is the fact he's also a product of Belle Glade, Fla., and Glades Central High school, the alma mater of Santonio Holmes. Burress and Holmes are the only two wide receivers the Steelers have taken in the first round in the last 14 drafts.
What's uncertain is whether either of them had the same kind of potential Benjamin does. For as big as Burress was, he wasn't as big as Benjamin. For as smooth as Holmes was, he didn't have Benjamin's power/speed combination.
Look at the size difference between Benjamin and the defensive back. Even with that, Benjamin gets him to bite on an inside move, gets his arms around him and heads to the corner. The play is over before the ball is even thrown, and all he needs to do is secure the catch.
Benjamin appears to be running more toward the back pylon, but he turns himself around, keeping his eyes on the ball and secures it despite the incoming contact and gets his foot down for the score.
This play is very hard to defend at any level, and even if Benjamin got only red zone snaps his rookie year, he could score 10 touchdowns just on the fact he has probably three feet of untouchable height with his arms extended on any even above average height cornerback.
He can be used underneath as well, perhaps to an equally effective level. He has a good true step off the line of scrimmage, little wasted movement, and powers into his route in perfect conjunction with the rub being set up by the tight end. He could have grabbed the ball a bit earlier instead of slowing himself down to use more of his body, but he's still agile enough to quickly square his shoulders and get up field.
You can see his athletic ability in his effort to avoid the hard-charging safety. Just think of this physically. He caught a ball on the move after slowing down a bit, and in about two moves, he's accelerating forward and is nimble enough to cut back hard in the opposite direction and nearly avoid the tackle of a much lighter player who didn't change direction in his approach. His power combined with his agility make him a dangerous receiver after the catch. The Seminoles did a nice job this season setting him up, this play being a good example of it. These aren't difficult routes to run (you see Denver run this frequently), but they can be very effective. Add in his red zone ability and you have a primary weapon outside the numbers for many NFL teams.
He did his share of setting teammates up as well. Again, from the slot, Benjamin destroys an unsuspecting defensive end with a clean crackback block. Out of the GIF, he proceeded to stand over the player for a bit too long, and turned his back to the play, nodding his head, while his teammate scored a touchdown. There's a difference between celebrating and drawing attention to oneself, and, according to the results of the league meetings at the end of March, the league is going to strictly enforce those differences this season.
Not to keep bringing it up, but some might remember Burress's celebration after catching a slant pass his rookie year. He spiked the ball after going down untouched, leading to a Jaguars fumble recovery, and a permanent place in the doghouse of most fans.
Nearly a guarantee Benjamin would have cost his team a touchdown and 15 yards after making a good play.
Those kinds of mental issues will cause concern for a lot of teams.
And so will these. Jameis Winston does a good job stepping up and delivering an off-window throw (his body is pointed outside to freeze the defender, instead delivering a perfect strike at a good speed to Benjamin who got open on a short post. Watch the deep safety react to the back side), but Benjamin tries to catch with his body instead of plucking the ball out of the air. Winston looked the safety off beautifully, and Benjamin had room to run.
Similarly to the second play highlighted, he slows himself down by tucking in to try to secure the catch. That also robs him of hand strength that can lock the ball in, giving him a chance to tuck it away cleanly and continue up the field. This added motion not only slows him down, but it also makes him prone to drops, and in this case, costs his team a chance to move the sticks, possibly more.
Benjamin has an amazing amount of upside, but so many fundamental flaws it's really difficult to gauge what kind of impact he will have. One fear is a team like the Cleveland Browns take a decent passer with the fourth overall pick, and reap the benefits of Benjamin's descent through the first round, pairing what could be in a year or two the most formidable pair of receivers in the NFL.
But general managers have such short career spans, one of the only ways they seem capable of keeping their jobs with the majority of the league is striking it rich with players like Benjamin. Coaching will be the difference between him becoming one of the best at his position in a few years. The physical attributes are clear and obvious and he has a good set of skills to work with. The concentration and focus levels needed to be successful are questionable at this point.
High risk, high reward.