Why Are NFL Scouts Scared of Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin?

BJ Kissel@bkissel7Contributor IApril 21, 2014

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Nothing should scare NFL scouts more than an unfinished player, especially when talking about a player projected by many as a first-round pick. 

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin has become one of the most interesting prospects in the upcoming NFL draft because of this issue. 

As we sit here today, Benjamin is far from a finished product.

At 6'5" and 240 pounds with a 4.61 40-yard-dash time, Benjamin has the size and speed combination to garner everyone's attention.  

Chris Carlson

Everyone remembers Benjamin for the game-winning touchdown pass he caught in the BCS National Championship Game, helping Florida State win its third title in program history. 

That's the best of Benjamin, and while impressive, the details matter too when scouts go to break down prospects. 

There are enough question marks when you dig into the specifics with Benjamin that he becomes a risky pick.

NFL teams won't ignore the possibilities of what Benjamin can do if he reaches his ceiling, but they have to weigh the risk of taking a player who is missing a few details.


The missing details

Two of the biggest question marks with Benjamin are his ability to create separation and his struggles with drops. 

One of the most underappreciated traits a receiver needs to have is the ability to create separation throughout his route. 

Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen recently wrote about Benjamin's route-running ability. 

"The FSU product will struggle at times to sink his hips, chop the feet and explode out of his breaks with acceleration. With some flexibility limitations, Benjamin can get stuck in his cuts at the top of the route stem," he wrote.

Here's a look at the kind of play Bowen was describing in regard to Benjamin's footwork and hips:

Draft Breakdown - BJ Kissel

You can see in the third and fourth pictures on this double-move that Benjamin didn't properly sink his hips, chop his feet or gain acceleration throughout his break.

The small red square in the fourth picture shows you where he initially made his second break, and compared to where he is in that fourth picture and where he wanted to go, you can plainly see how "rounded" that route became. 

The pass ultimately fell incomplete, landing just out of Benjamin's reach. 

Bowen followed up that detail of Benjamin's route running with a concern about how this translates to the NFL game, writing, "Look at it this way: NFL defensive backs challenge receivers on the release, through the route stem and at the break point. There are no free passes in this league outside of the numbers or versus a nickel corner in the slot."

If Benjamin runs this kind of a route against an NFL cornerback, the defender will be right there with him stride for stride. 

For an NFL team to feel comfortable enough with Benjamin to take him in the first round, it will need to believe it can correct this issue. 

Bowen continued his critique of Benjamin:

"Benjamin isn’t a receiver with elite top-end speed or lateral quickness (4.39 short shuttle, 7.33 three-cone). That’s why developing his technique is crucial in terms of the transition to the NFL to produce sharp, clean angles (instead of rounding his cuts) in the intermediate passing game."

Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar had similar thoughts on Benjamin:

Will probably struggle with option routes for a while, because the ability to time his physical movements to the directions in his head is a process under development. Needs to learn to create separation. The little things — catching the ball with his hands instead of his body; waiting to turn upfield until he’s got the ball securely — are not quite there yet.

The last detail that seems to always pop up with Benjamin is his ability to consistently catch the football.

When you watch his highlight tapes and some of the unbelievable catches he makes in traffic, high-pointing the ball over a defensive back, it'd be hard to understand how catching the football would be an issue for him, but it is.

Greg Peshek of Rotoworld.com wrote back in January of four of the top receiving prospects in this draft and compared them. One of those players was Benjamin. 

Peshek concluded that 37.7 percent of Benjamin's catches were on post/corner routes. This makes sense considering these routes keep Benjamin's momentum running up the field and the angles allow him to get his body in position to make a play in front of the defender. 

But the most interesting chart Peshek developed had to do with Benjamin's drops, calculating that he dropped just shy of 10 percent of the passes that came his way. 

That number is much higher than Clemson's Sammy Watkins (4.49) and Texas A&M's Mike Evans (4.29), two of the top receiving prospects in the upcoming draft. 



The ability to run clean, crisp routes and simply catching the football are big concerns for a receiver who wants to play in the NFL. 

But fact is Benjamin has the size, speed and strength to have NFL personnel guys just hoping to see something in him they feel they can develop. 

The old adage of "it only takes one team" will ring true with Benjamin.

He doesn't have to impress every single NFL club and have all of them buy into his ability to work and develop, but he just needs one to see the ceiling he brings and try to get the best out of him. 

Some teams may see Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, believing in a year or two that Benjamin can use the same physical ability to become a force in the NFL.

Other teams may see Jon Baldwin, also similar in physical abilities, while the former first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, currently with the San Francisco 49ers, hasn't yet lived up to his college highlight film. 

NFL teams will do their due diligence on deciding whether Benjamin can develop into a player worthy of a first-round pick.

Based on some recent reporting of Benjamin's dealings with NFL clubs, there are still some things left to be learned on his part:

Although there was some disagreement from Benjamin's camp on the validity of that claim:

In any case, the story is now out there, and teams will have to follow up on this situation to find out what really happened. 

There's no denying Benjamin's natural athletic ability, or even his playmaking ability at the collegiate level. But when projecting Benjamin to the NFL these finer details matter, and that's what NFL scouts are going to evaluate. 

He's the ultimate boom-or-bust prospect, which makes it very difficult for scouts to put their names on it and bang the table for this guy.

They're scared to be wrong, and you can't blame them. 


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