With the 2014 NFL Draft now roughly one month away, there seems to be one player that the Pittsburgh Steelers could potentially draft with the 15th overall selection that causes such a split in opinion as far as the fan base goes and that player is Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that dating back to the second half of last season I have been infatuated with Benjamin. Did he have his share of drops? Yes. Does he lack elite speed? Yes. Does he catch touchdowns? Yes.
The last question and answer of those three listed above is what really endears me to Benjamin and it is why I really think the Steelers should strongly consider him at 15th overall even though most of the major media draftniks view him more as a late first-round selection.
Over the course of the last three seasons, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 38 touchdown passes from 10 yards and in and 23 of those went to players that are no longer on the roster. So who is left heading into 2014 that has registered a touchdown reception from that area of the field? Tight end Heath Miller (8), wide receiver Antonio Brown (4), fullback Will Johnson (2) and wide receiver Derek Moye (1). Miller, by the way, had just one last season and in case you forgot, it was a shovel pass.
So what about the prospects of second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton? If you look back his college career, he only had three touchdown catches that came inside the 10 and a total of nine inside the red zone as a whole. Let’s face it, he only has six catches to his credit so far with the Steelers, so there’s quite a bit that we still don’t know about him.
The Steelers have also added wide receivers Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey this offseason to replace Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, but combined, those two players have 20 touchdown catches from 10 yards and in in 173 regular-season games played. How confident are you that either one of those two players will be able to offset the loss of both Sanders and Cotchery deep inside the territory of the opponent?
I’ve referenced this several times already, but it’s worth doing it once again. Of the seven passes that Benjamin caught last season inside the red zone, all seven were good for touchdowns. His other eight touchdowns came outside of the red zone, so he’s not just a one-trick touchdown pony.
While nothing is guaranteed, I think most of you believe that the Steelers will have no shot at drafting Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans at 15th overall. If that indeed winds up being the case, Benjamin really deserves serious consideration with that pick.
There are some good arguments to be made for the Steelers selecting one of the top two or three cornerbacks if given the chance, but in all honesty, do you really see any of those players contributing as rookies? I am high on Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley in addition to Benjamin, but even he would likely struggle to see the field much as a rookie with the Steelers.
The Steelers defense is still going through a transition from old to young and one first-round player is unlikely to make a huge difference in 2014. An offensive player, however, can make a difference and that’s really what the Steelers need right now. I think Benjamin can be that player and I can’t help but think how much he would help production inside the red zone by him being on the field.