Following a national championship run, Florida State announced a number of its key cogs were heading to the NFL, one of which was wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Benjamin is coming off a junior campaign in which he hauled in 54 receptions for 1,011 and 15 touchdowns, and posted an 18.7 yard-per-catch average. One of those 15 touchdowns, you may remember, proved to be the game-winner as the Seminoles knocked off Auburn in the BCS National Championship game.
The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Benjamin is arguably entering the professional ranks a year too early, but his size and skill-set makes him an awfully intriguing prospect. Benjamin is quick enough to beat defenders both before and after the way, and where he’ll make his mark will be in YAC (yards after catch). He was also one Florida State’s best weapons when it came to 50-50 jump balls.
Some scouts consider Benjamin a “boom or bust” prospect, as his he a raw route-runner with a tendency to drop a lot of passes. NFL teams will still likely take a chance on him, however, due to his impressive size, body control and ability to make difficult grabs. And should his skills translate over well to the next level, scouts view his ceiling much like that of former New York Giants wideout Plaxico Burress — a key target on slants and vertical passes, as well as a major red-zone threat.
Benjamin is all but certain to be a first-round selection. He’s ranked as the No. 29 prospect overall by Todd McShay, and the No. 5 wideout behind Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans and Jordan Matthews. He’s ranked No. 32 overall by Rotoworld, also the fifth-rated wideout, and No. 25 by CBS Sports.
Benjamin could come off the board as early as 15th to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that may lose Emmanuel Sanders to free agency. Pittsburgh has Antonio Brown who can stretch the field, but lacks a receiver who can haul in passes over the middle.
If not Pittsburgh, he could go a pick later to its AFC North rival. The Baltimore Ravens lacked a big-framed receiver this season and need a complement to Torrey Smith. He could serve as an Andre Johnson-type under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Benjamin is often mocked to Kansas City at No. 23. Dwayne Bowe is the only consistent performer, as A.J. Jenkins remains a developmental player. Alex Smith needs weapons if that offense is going to evolve.
Should he slide, the Carolina Panthers at No. 28 could be a fit. Carolina seemingly always needs help at wide receiver, and Benjamin could thrive with Cam Newton’s big arm. If he survives to the end of the first round, the Seattle Seahawks could nab him. Sidney Rice isn’t a lock to return, and Benjamin could fill that void for the Super Bowl champions.