Kelvin Benjamin declared for the draft only a few days after his star turn in the BCS National Championship Game, and really, it's not hard to figure out why.
Benjamin, a redshirt sophomore receiver who caught the game-winning score in the Seminoles’ 34-31 against the Tigers, used his 6-foot-5, 234-pound frame and freakish athletic ability to terrorize defensive backs in his first year as a starter, catching 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns.
With his massive size, insane reach and surprising speed for his frame ― he reportedly runs a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash ― it’s easy to see why Benjamin has been drawing comparisons to star Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. But while some may see some Megatron in Benjamin, his weaknesses may cause Chiefs fans to see another Jon Baldwin, a failed first-round pick in 2011.
“Baldwin had those character issues and they were pretty well-documented, that he just wasn't a super-hard worker,” says OptimumScouting.com draft analyst Jared Counterman. “And Baldwin was similar ― big and fast ― but I didn't see the type of body control with Baldwin that I see with Benjamin.”
Baldwin's draft profile on NFL.com called him a huge receiver with deceptive speed (4.5 in the 40-yard dash) that showed the ability to track and high-point the ball, which are all traits that Counterman says Benjamin, who only played three years high school football, has.
However, Baldwin's profile also revealed that he was a sloppy route runner who wasn't a willing run blocker and occasionally took plays off. There have been some questions about Benjamin's work ethic ― he reportedly ballooned to 260 pounds as a true freshman, when he knew he wasn't going to play as he learned a complex playbook – and even he admitted that he was lazy on and off the field when he first arrived at Florida State.
But he's since cut a significant amount of weight, which shows a commitment to getting better, and has flashed ability as a run blocker, a potential boon in a Chiefs offense that is heavy on screen passes and reliant on downfield blocking for star running back Jamaal Charles.
"There's a couple of really big blocks on his tape that wide receivers don't typically make, and they're always a little bit later in the game where he starts to mentally dominate the defensive back," Counterman says. "He's demoralizing to play."
Still, Counterman says his biggest concern about Benjamin is his occasional tendency to drop passes, which he attributes to a lack of concentration from a still-raw player.
"The Florida game, he put up big numbers but he had three really brutal drops," Counterman says. "But he's a big guy and he's gonna run really fast. The NFL is gonna love him. He's that trendy talent right now. He's going to win contested catches."
For all of Benjamin’s gifts, it’s still early in the evaluation process, and it remains to be seen how high he will go in May's draft. ESPN has him ranked as the draft's No. 29 prospect while Optimum Scouting lists him at No. 43, which means he could be in play for the Chiefs, who pick No. 23 in the first round but don't have a second-round pick due to the Alex Smith trade.
But while it remains to be seen if Benjamin is the type of receiver the Chiefs ― who are certainly in the market for another receiving type ― really covet, Counterman does think Benjamin could work in Reid's West Coast Offense.
“You saw Dwayne Bowe ― he ripped Indianapolis up on the slant route, and that's what Benjamin can do,” Counterman says. “This won't be the case in the NFL, but when he goes over the middle in college, no one wants a piece of him because he's 6-5 and 240 pounds. He's just really really big, I think he'd be a good fit in that offense, sure.”
Here are some highlights of Benjamin against Florida on Nov. 30, when he caught nine passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns:
Here is another highlight reel from the 2013 season: