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NFL Rookie Watch: Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
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23 Jun 2014 09:43 AM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Kelvin Benjamin runs routes at Panthers rookie camp. (Image Source: Chris Keane/AP Photo)

Here’s a breakdown of former Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin:

Round 1, Pick 28; 28th Overall

Measurables: The first thing that stands out about Benjamin is his size. The kid is tremendous. He’s 6’5”, which has him at the 95th percentile among the receivers in the 2014 draft class, and he tips the scales at 240 pounds (99th percentile). Benjamin has extremely long arms (34 7/8”; 98th percentile) and massive hands (10 ¼”; 93rd percentile) for a pass-catching prospect.  

The second thing that stood out about Benjamin at the NFL Scouting Combine is that he wasn’t very fast or quick. Benjamin ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.61 seconds (17th percentile). His three-cone time of 7.33 was the worst among the receivers in Indianapolis and his 4.39 short shuttle (10th percentile) wasn’t much better. Maybe even more concerning than his lack of speed and quickness, Benjamin also failed to flash explosiveness and strength at the combine. A 9’11” broad jump was close to average (42nd percentile) but his 32 ½ vertical jump (13th percentile) wasn’t. He also threw up the bar just 13 times on the bench (29th percentile).

Skill Set: You have to start with his size, which gives Benjamin an absolutely amazing catch radius (83” wingspan). He’s a strong pass catcher, in that he can makes tough grabs in traffic, even when contacted by defenders. Despite his lack of speed and quickness, Benjamin was more than capable of getting separation at the college level and often stretched the defense. He was able to gobble up yards with his long strides and use his deceptive speed, as Benjamin consistently beat defensive backs deep for big plays down the field. Even though he’s not an elite leaper, with his length, body control and ability to time high pointing the football, Benjamin is an ideal jump-ball candidate and red-zone weapon. He uses his body very well, doesn’t need much room to make a catch and he could be moved around to multiple positions. Good upside as a blocker.

Weakness: The Florida State product is raw and as a redshirt sophomore is among the most inexperienced prospects in this draft class. As many analysts have pointed out, several one-year wonder types at the position have failed to find themselves in the NFL. He needs to really work on smoothing out his route running skills. A bit stiff, it could limit Benjamin’s route-tree effectiveness. He’s not much of a factor after the catch. While he has big strong hands, they can also be inconsistent, read too many easy drops. Finally, we can’t ignore those combine numbers. Is Benjamin quick enough to get open at the next level or fast enough to sustain separation?

How He Fits: Carolina’s top three wide outs from a year ago—Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn—will all be catching passes somewhere else in 2014.  They added Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant via free agency, but they are on the last legs of their careers and lack explosiveness. Carolina’s pass offense is considered fairly simple by NFL standards, which should make it easy for a rookie to step in and contribute from Day 1. Benjamin should have every opportunity to be a big part of the offense this season, maybe even as a starter. Look for Carolina to use Benjamin to stretch the field, both on the outside and down the seam. If he continues to prove capable of making catches in traffic, Benjamin could emerge as a go-to guy, especially on third downs and in the red zone, as long as he limits his drops.

Camp Update: So far, Benjamin is flashing the type of potential that made him a first-round pick. According to Steve Reed of The Associated Press, Benjamin is showing reliable hands with the ability to make the spectacular catch. "What goes through your mind are the possibilities," general manager Dave Gettleman said. Benjamin is getting most of his reps with the first team and he understands the Panthers need him to develop quickly. "I feel like I've got to go grow up fast because the team really needs me," Benjamin said. "So that's what I'm going to do." Headman Ron Rivera spoke about his “specific skill set” and expressed excitement over what he’s seen to this point.  

NFL Draft/Rookie Columns:

Rookie Watch: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota |WR Brandin Cooks, New Orleans | CB Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati |DT Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore | WR Jarvis Landry, Miami | Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia | A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati |  QB Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee |OL Greg Robinson, St. Louis|QB Logan Thomas, Arizona

2015 Draft: RB Duke Johnson, Miami |QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon| RB Karlos Williams, FSU | QB Jameis Winston, FSU

Off the Clock: Johnny Manziel| 2nd-Rd Studs | 3rd-Rd Steals | 4th-Rd WRs | 4th-Rd Sleepers | 5th-Rd Sleepers | 6th-Rd RBs | 7th-Rd RBs

First Round Pick-by-Pick Analysis: Picks 1-5 | Picks 6-10| Picks 11-15| Picks 16-20 | Picks 21-26| Picks 27-32

Green Bay Packers Off the Clock: Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama | Wide Receiver Davante Adams, Fresno | Defensive Tackle Khyri Thornton, USM | Tight End Richard Rodgers, Cal | Outside Linebacker Carl Bradford, ASU | Wide Receiver Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin| Center Corey Linsley, Ohio State | Cornerback Demetri Goodson, Baylor | Wide Receiver Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State

New York Giants Off the Clock: Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., LSU | Center Weston Richburg, Colorado State| Defensive Tackle Jay Bromley, Syracuse | Running Back Andre Williams, BC| Strong Safety Nat Berhe, San Diego State| Outside Linebacker Devon Kennard, USC | Cornerback Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame | Tight End Xavier Grimble, USC| Defensive Tackle Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina | Safety C.J. Barnett, Ohio State | 2014 NFL Draft Review

New York Jets Off the Clock: Safety Calvin Pryor, Louisville | Tight End Jace Amaro, Texas Tech| Cornerback Dexter McDougle, Maryland| Wide Receiver Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma| Wide Receiver Shaq Evans, UCLA| Offensive Lineman Dakota Dozier, Furman | Inside Linebacker Jeremiah George, ISU | Cornerback Brandon Dixon, NW Missouri St. | Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska | Outside Linebacker IK Enemkpali, La. Tech| Quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson | Outside Linebacker Trevor Reilly, Utah | 2014 NFL Draft Review

Seahawks Off the Clock: Second-Round Pick WR Paul Richardson, Colorado

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: danmogollon@gmail.com.

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