Saying anyone is going to be the next Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, etc. is obviously a tough thing to predict. Johnson is a once-in-a-generation type player with incredible size, speed, and talent not many people in the world possess. Thomas, Marshall, and Bryant are all extremely gifted and talented receivers that are just a notch below Calvin, but are still among the elite receivers in the NFL. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kelvin Benjamin, the Carolina Panthers’ 1st round pick (28th overall), will join that group of All-Pro receivers.
Benjamin, who grew up in Belle Glade, FL., was one of the top-ranked receivers coming out of high school. He was heavily recruited by many SEC schools, but eventually committed to Florida State. He redshirted his 2011, and then went onto have a solid freshman campaign in 2012, reeling in 30 receptions for 495 yards and four touchdowns. Last year, the whole Florida State team went off. Benjamin, Jameis Winston’s 2nd favorite target, went on to have 54 receptions for 1,011 yards, 15 touchdowns, and a ridiculous 18.7 yards per catch. In the National Championship, he had four grabs for 54 yards, and the game-winning touchdown reception with 13 seconds left.
At the NFL Combine, Benjamin had a less-than-stellar performance. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, finished below average in many other drills, and scored a seven on the Wonderlic test.1 As you can guess, none of this helped his stock. Before the combine, many analysts had him going to Cleveland at 26 or the Panthers at 28. I can only imagine if he put up some killer numbers at the combine, he would have definitely gone in the top half of the draft.
Anyway, let’s tackle the “issues” here. A 4.61 40-yard dash. Honestly, who cares. I can’t believe how blown out of proportion the NFL Combine is. It’s probably the second largest holiday in the United States now behind Christmas. It’s ridiculous. Every single detail is broken down, or may I say, overly broken down. I feel like everyone in the NFL gets bored between the Super Bowl and the draft, so they decide to excessively analyze everything. The Combine is nice. It more often than not reinforces your previous calculations. Other than that, don’t read to much into it. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.63 40. Anquan Boldin? 4.72. Jerry Rice?!? 4.71. They must have had some pretty bad NFL careers. As for the Wonderlic, it is just another “hurdle”, physical or mental, a player must endure prior to the draft. It gives you an idea on how good of a test taker a player is, but it doesn’t tell you anything about “football smarts”. Hakeem Nicks scored an 11, C.J. Spiller and A.J. Green a 10, Patrick Peterson a 9, and Frank Gore a 6. Let’s stop talking about all this nonsense now.
What I failed to mention earlier is his killer size. He stands at 6’5″ and 240 pounds, with an 83-inch wingspan (Calvin Johnson’s is 82 inches), and his hands are some of the largest in the league at 10.25″. He is a freak of nature. With that being said, Benjamin has landed in a perfect spot to start his NFL career. He is basically being given the number #1 spot in Carolina. After Steve Smith left for Baltimore, Carolina has been looking for a new number #1. Enter Kelvin Benjamin.
Cam Newton has never had a true, legitimate big man threat down the field. Smith has had a wonderful NFL career, but he isn’t a go-up-and-get-it kind of guy. Benjamin will be a huge threat every time Carolina enters the red zone. I can already see Newton throwing jump ball after jump ball to Benjamin in the corner of the end zone. They are both going to love it. Not only that, Benjamin will be a great option all over the field. He has been criticized for his route running, but so was Demaryius Thomas. Everyone always has a knock on them. No big deal. There is way too much upside for Kelvin Benjamin right now.
So far, the reports have been great out of Panthers’ camp this summer. I’ve already mentioned he has basically been given the #1 spot, but Newton seems to love finding him on the field. In their first preseason game, he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass. Next week against Kansas City, he had two grabs for 41 yards and also led the team in targets with four. Just a couple of days ago, he once again led the Panthers in receptions (five), yards (47), and targets (6) against the Patriots. There is no doubt about it, he is going to get the ball. He is the only wide receiver they’ve got. He was also “bashed” for dropping a lot of balls coming out of college. So far, he hasn’t dropped a thing. He has been getting open, getting airborne, and bringing down the football.
Please watch this wonderful video of Kelvin Benjamin at Florida State. After you watch it, pick up your jaw and continue reading.
If you aren’t sold on him now, I’m not sure what your problem is. He isn’t from Eastern Kentucky or Northern Illinois. Benjamin played at Florida State University. The #1 team in the country. Against the best competition around. He always had a target on his head. Yet, he still dominated. Some may argue he only had three games last year with 100+ receiving yards, or most games he only finished with two or three catches, but he finished with 15 touchdowns! On only 54 receptions! He played on a team loaded with talent and he wasn’t the main attraction.
Put him in Carolina where uber-talented Cam Newton needs to find a new friend. I’m not going to say Benjamin can flirt with 20 touchdowns a year, but is it really out of the possibility? With his size? His hands? Cam Newton? No other options? I wouldn’t rule anything out.
All I am saying is, sit back and enjoy this man play. Get him in your fantasy leagues. Buy his jersey. Tweet at him. Do whatever. Just try to connect to this guy somehow before he gets big. In a year or two, you will be arguing with your friends if Benjamin is worth a top 10 fantasy pick.