When the Cleveland Browns were on the clock in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, it was easy to assume the team would select a wide receiver to complement the previous additions of Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Mitchell Schwartz. The Browns had neglected the wideout spot throughout the first three rounds, and fans were beginning to grumble about the lack of a selection to help out Cleveland's struggling quarterbacks.
Travis Benjamin was the second ranked wide receiver available heading into the fourth round and was selected by Cleveland with the 100th overall pick in the draft. Benjamin was ranked 27th on the grade meter given to all wide receivers by the 2012 NFL Draft Tracker but was the 15th receiver selected in the draft.
The Browns may not have made a splash with the selection of Benjamin, but they locked in a receiver who could have a significant impact early in his NFL career. On film, Benjamin appears to play very fast and makes separation from opposing corners look easy. Benjamin also has great hands and catches almost every ball away from his body. That type of touch can help players catch passes in the winter conditions of Cleveland Browns Stadium and should be a good skill to build off of at the NFL level.
The biggest element of Benjamin's game is the one thing that has been missing from the Browns' wide receivers over the course of the past few seasons. Speed is a crucial element for every player in the NFL, and few in the league are faster than Benjamin's 4.26 40-yard dash recorded before his junior year at the University of Miami (via The Cleveland Plain Dealer).
The Browns will look to use Benjamin to stretch the field and help some of their bigger receivers get open underneath. Cleveland has the option to use Benjamin as a deep threat or as a decoy to pull coverage off some of their other receiving options. Torrey Smith plays a similar role for the Baltimore Ravens and had great success with deep passes early in his career.
Benjamin could also be a key weapon in the slot and in short yardage situations because of his ability to get off the line quickly and gain a step on inside routes.
Benjamin improved in every season he played with the Miami Hurricanes and was a reliable receiver in an offense that struggled to find its identity over the last few seasons. Benjamin posted 131 catches over his four-year career and caught 13 touchdown passes to go along with 2,041 receiving yards.
The Hurricanes also used Benjamin in a punt-returning role as well as other areas of their special teams unit. The Browns currently have Josh Cribbs filling that role for the 2012 NFL season but can always look in other areas if the special teams should struggle.
The Browns addressed some very important holes in their offense with this draft and upgraded nearly every point of weakness on the offensive side of the ball. Benjamin is only one piece of what Browns fans hope is a winning picture for many seasons to come.