Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.
6-foot-5, 240 pounds
2013 stats: 54 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns
40-yard dash: 4.61 seconds (official time at combine)
The good: Benjamin followed up an intriguing but inconsistent redshirt freshman season with an explosive 2013 effort, scoring 14 touchdowns in the Seminoles' final 10 games (and 10 TDs in his final six games). He finished off FSU's title run with the signature play of the college season, a 2-yard touchdown catch from Jamies Winston with 13 seconds remaining to beat Auburn for the national title.
Benjamin's size, catching radius and ability to high-point the ball all are consistent with the crop of big-bodied, big-play receivers who populate the NFL's leading statistics each season. It seemed like every game this season, Winston lobbed up a pass — be it in the middle of the field, down the sideline or in the corner of the end zone — and Benjamin went up and got it over a DB's head. He has left-tackle length arms, good strength and also can deliver some big blocks. Benjamin can get deep, believe it or not, and appears to be coming into his own as a mismatch receiver.
The bad: Like many bigger receivers, Benjamin has to gear up to top speed, and he can get easily jammed off the line for a guy his size. He also needs to develop more nuance in his game — too often Benjamin relied on his physical attributes to win battles, and in the NFL, he'll need to be a more savvy route runner, not use so much contact at the top of his routes and become a better hands catcher.
Benjamin, who turns 24 a few days after the next Super Bowl, can run a bit hot and cold and go absent for stretches. He had only three games last season with more than 73 yards receiving. He's neither quick nor sudden and must find a weight where he can flourish.
The verdict: If you watch the Florida game from this past season, it's all there — Benjamin as a prospect, both thrilling and maddening. If you look at the statistics alone, you can see what a monster he was that afternoon against an overwhelmed Gators team: nine catches, 212 yards and three touchdowns.
People say Benjamin isn't elite fast, but this game is proof that once he gets a head of steam, he can roast safeties and even corners in man coverage. But a closer look also reveals three egregious drops in the game and a few poorly run routes.
Benjamin isn't a finished product, and he's a bit older than your typical pro prospect, so he's going to need a patient positional coach and expectations of him being a Day 1 No. 1 receiver are unreal. However, he has rare skills and easily could transform into a Plaxico Burress-like performer. The Noles used Benjamin in a variety of roles, lining him up outside, in the slot, in motion, running every route in the tree and even asking him to crack-back block against defensive ends. A creative, patient NFL coordinator should be tickled to have a toy such as Benjamin, provided he work at his craft and fine-tune his shortcomings, most of which are correctable.
This is a future star if the finished product is realized and sculpted.
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