Why Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin Is a Risky 1st-Round Pick

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin (1) runs past Duke's Ross Cockrell (6) for a touchdown in the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship NCAA football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Kelvin Benjamin is one of the most talented all-around prospects in this year's draft class. His combination of size, speed and athleticism is rivaled by few, and he has drawn comparisons to some of the elite receivers in the game. 

Despite the hype, Benjamin is still extremely raw and needs to refine his game in a number of areas before he's ready to produce at a high level in the NFL. 

Let's examine some of the flaws in Benjamin's game. 

Field awareness

This is a broad area which influences Benjamin's performance in a number of ways. He struggles to understand the movement around him, and it could be for a variety of different reasons. 

Some athletes simply struggle with this abstract part of the game. They can see what's in front of them, but can't always anticipate movement around them. 

Other athletes have the ability, but they simply struggle to remain focused enough to think through this area of the game. 

Regardless of why it occurs, it's an issue for Benjamin. 

It shows up in his play in multiple scenarios, but we'll use this play against Florida as an example. 

On this particular play, Benjamin is lined up wide right and runs a simple curl. With three receivers going deep, he's probably a check-down option for Jameis Winston, so when Winston feels pressure his focus turns to Benjamin. 

As Winston moves left to avoid pressure, Benjamin simply stands and watches the play develop in front of him. 

While every other receiver on the field is going deep, Benjamin should have reacted to the breakdown of the play and turned his route into a drag to provide Winston with a check-down option in the middle of the field. By standing still, Winston is forced to either attempt to loft a pass to the receiver at the bottom of the screen, or take the sack. 

Unnecessary penalties

There's no need for a receiver of Benjamin's size to commit an offensive pass interference penalty. If he runs his route correctly and uses his size to his advantage, there simply isn't a cornerback out there capable of beating him in a one-on-one situation.

On this particular play, Benjamin inexplicably grabs the defender, allowing him to easily break free.

Gif clipped from DraftBreakdown.com

With no safety over the top, this should have been an easy touchdown for Benjamin, even without making contact with the cornerback.

The officials missed this obvious penalty and the touchdown stood, but this type of unnecessary physical play will cost Benjamin dearly in the NFL. 

Basic lack of fundamentals

On this play Benjamin runs a simple corner route into the end zone. A receiver of his size should be able to run this route in his sleep.

Gif clipped from DraftBreakdown.com

Ultimately Benjamin makes the play, but he initially turns his head to wrong side.

What was he thinking? 

You can watch NFL receivers run that route every Sunday and the throw will never come over the right shoulder against that coverage. It's simply a breakdown in focus by Benjamin. 

While he recovers to make the catch on this play, that type of mental lapse can cost you against more polished NFL defensive backs. 

Ultimately, Benjamin's raw talent will land him somewhere in the late first or second round of the draft, and deservedly so. A small handful of players enter the league each year with his raw tools, and NFL position coaches relish the opportunity to groom this type of raw talent into a productive receiver. 

However, while he has the tools to develop into the next Brandon Marshall, his future employer and his future fan base should be modest in their early expectations. Benjamin is a project, and his 2014 season will be filled with flashes of brilliance mixed with a healthy dose of frustrating rookie mistakes. 


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