“Cut to the Chase” The curious case of Kelvin Benjamin
The NFL is a league where a man named Megatron dominates catching a football. Kelvin Benjamin just came off a 1,000 yard, 15 touchdown season that culminated in a National Championship game winning red-zone catch. Benjamin was drafted 28th. How did 27 teams pass on what looks like the prototypical matchup nightmare a la Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas? This offseason has been quiet for the man who might just be Cam Newton’s ticket to the next level.
The last month before the 2014 NFL Draft saw a lot of movement within the wideout ranks including the slide of Florida State’s ace receiver. Conflicting reports of blowing off a workout with the Baltimore Ravens led to NFL scouts’ red flags about maturity and work ethic. The Ravens claimed he said he was ‘Tired’. Benjamin and his agent continue to vehemently deny this report to this day. The Panthers had no intention of letting Kelvin past their late first day pick in New York.
Benjamin played football and basketball at Florida prep powerhouse Glades Central, where he was highly recruited in both sports. His only documented injury concern came his junior year when he played through what was believed to be a partially torn knee in ‘09. Redshirting in 2011 at Florida State, Kelvin Started all fourteen games in ‘12 and for the national champions in ’13 when he led the ACC in touchdown receptions (including the game winner in the BCS Championship Game).
Year Yards Catches APC TD GP
2012 495 30 16.5 4 14
2013 1011 54 18.7 15 14
Proceeding the combine, maturity and separation flags arose when Kelvin declined to run during his pro day. His mid first-round draft status started to sink quickly. Experts were starting to poke holes in Benjamin’s stock. “He’s 6-foot-5, 240 pounds with 35-inch arms, and you’re talking about a catching radius. However, there’s one thing about wide receivers with only one year of college production (like Benjamin at FSU) and it’s a little sobering when you look at the names on that list: Stephen Hill, Greg Little, Devin Thomas, Anthony Gonzalez.” Mike Mayock said during the combine, where the wideout was solid, but lacked ‘wow factor’. Some NFL teams were so low on Kelvin, they saw him as a mid round (2-3) pick. Shedding his image as a flash in the pan and a habitual pass dropper is going to be Kelvin’s main concern as he embarks on being the premier wide receiver in Charlotte.
Despite questions, Benjamin found his way into the end of the first round with the Panthers. His rare 6-5, 240 lb. frame and 83-inch wingspan won out. The NFL is geared to treasure receivers that eat cushion and separates with long strides. Panthers fans will be treated to Kelvin’s strong approach to the ball, who is not easily knocked off course and will enter the middle of the field without fear on cross routes. The most outstanding parts of his game that will be showcased every sunday in the NFL will be his energetic demeanor and jumpball catching. Kelvin has uncanny ability to climb the ladder, pluck the ball at its highest point and regularly snatches it out of the air with superb body control and the grace of a gymnast or ballerina while creating separation with his body. Size is a premium in a division where the tallest number one corner is New Orleans’ Keenan Lewis at 6’1. Not only having the goods, but using his body well to shield the defender from the ball, he can beat double coverage at all levels, including when opposing teams bring in safeties to shadow Carolina’s new toy. The 6’5 Wide Receiver’s straight-line speed is unquestionable and can make quite a vertical challenge for defenses, ask then Florida Gator cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy when Benjamin tuned the future NFL Draft pick up for 212 yards and three scores in a 37-7 rout.
The bottom line is that the Panthers got a tight end-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver with a rare wingspan. Benjamin demands extra coverage be rolled his way. Showing continual improvement, Benjamin is growing into the position and possesses every attribute necessary to be an ace receiver in the NFL.
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