Steelers 2014 NFL Draft Player Profiles – Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
Good friend Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services has finished his player profiles of several of the top 2014 NFL Draft prospects and over the course of the next few weeks I will be posting the ones that the Pittsburgh Steelers will more than likely have interest in. While Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has not been in for a pre draft visit, the Steelers did show interest in him at his Pro Day. Being as post about him always creates good discussion, today we post his player profile. Thomas has done these profiles for the NFL for several years and I know that many of you enjoy reading them.
Florida State University Seminoles
Belle Glade, Florida
Glade Central High School
In this day and age of football, when evaluating receivers, “bigger is better” seems to be what most teams covet. The Seminole product not only proved that last season, when he became the team’s first 1,000-yard pass catcher since Anquan Boldin in 2002. Benjamin’s 1,011 yards last season marked just the tenth time that Florida State had a player gain 1,000-yards receiving in a season since the university began playing organized football in 1947.
The narrative has been set as a Florida State wide receiver for the past decade: a new, talented recruit picks up a ton of hype from media, fans — even coaches — and is dubbed the next Peter Warrick, the next great pass-catching hope. But inevitably, he falters some-here along the way. Too many drops at practice, an injury too severe or nagging to ove-come, an inability to block the comments heaped upon him by critics.
Arguably, since 2002, no Seminole has been able to make the leap from being a middle of the pack route runner and reach elite level. Anquan Boldin may have arguably been the Seminoles’ most recent elite receiver. After him, the collective has been good, great even, but no one has truly seemed to differentiate themselves as “the guy” for the ’Noles.
This year, many scouts are predicting that Benjamin will break that mold and be the next impact receiver to come out of the Florida State program. The coaches have searched far and wide for talent to end that drought at the receiver position. In 2013, there were fifteen scholarship receivers on their national championship team, but none had a “bigger” impact, both in size and production than Benjamin.
The red-shirt sophomore ranked second on the team with 54 catches, but turned those grabs into 1,011 yards, tied for the seventh-best season total by a Seminole. He turned fifteen of those tosses into touchdowns, which tied the school annual record and also tied for fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference record book.
National honors came Benjamin’s way after that impressive performance, but the humble pass catcher takes greater pride in his unit’s accomplishments and not his own individual success. “You can’t just focus on one person,” receiver Rashad Greene said. “We have a lot of guys that can play.”
“I think we got the best receiving corps of the nation,” 6-foot-6 wideout Kelvin Benjamin added. “We got small skinny guys that are quick, that can’t be touched off the line, then we got the big guys who go get the ball; the red zone type of players.”
Variety can be good and quarterback Jameis Winston utilized all of his receivers’ assets, all the way to becoming the youngest person to ever win the Heisman Trophy in 2013, in addition to targeting Benjamin often to end the year as national champions.
Benjamin’s rededication this season has him destined to be one of the first receivers to hear his name called during the 2014 NFL Draft. He has come a long way since he first arrived on campus as a freshman so overweight, that the coaches could not justify putting him on the football field. The year observing from the sidelines made him realize that he was his own worst enemy and the only solution was to “buckle down” and get himself back in the good graces of his position coaches and make sure that he had better learn head coach Jimbo Fisher’s complex offense.
“I wasn’t fit to play,” Benjamin admitted. “I think I could have played, but I don’t think I would have met the expectations.” He spent the off-season prior to the 2012 trimming down to around 240 pounds (he admits his previous weight was upwards of 255, but the coaches state it was much more) and has was complimented from players and coaches throughout fall practices.
The obvious NFL comparison to Benjamin is Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions’ star receiver nicknamed “Megatron” for his ability to haul in highlight reel-worthy plays. The Seminole receiver apparently recognized this as well, and his Twitter avatar has a picture of Johnson at the top with his “Megatron” nickname and Benjamin at the bottom with an “Optimus Prime” moniker.
Benjamin’s aggressive physicality combined with his tall frame began to create match-up nightmares for most secondaries he faced in 2012. Quarterback E.J. Manual was nursing injury issues in 2012, but the team still managed to averaged 265.29 aerial yards per game. Benjamin began the year listed third on the depth chart at the “Z” receiver position, but thanks to his secondary teammates “tutoring him” in practice, he had a quiet, yet efficient season to finish fourth on the team with thirty receptions for 495 yards and four scores.
Benjamin continued to shed weight leading up to the 2013 season opener and the coaches elevated him to “Z” receiver duties with the first unit. They saw a player who looked and felt quicker and stronger out of his breaks. Florida State’s own cornerbacks had difficulty with him in practice. “To guard somebody with a body as wide and strong is real hard because you got to be on point,” former cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Because if you’re not, he is going to catch the ball and it’s hard to knock the ball out of his hand. And he can jump in the air, also. It’s real tough. It’s real tough.”
During one fall practice prior to the 2013 season opener, 5-foot, 8-inch FSU cornerback/ free safety Lamarcus Joyner was asked how to defend a jump ball vs. Benjamin. He chuckled and said, “it hasn’t come down to that yet, but I know it will someday.” Both teammates in practice and opponents throughout the 2013 campaign realized that his combination of size and speed made it almost unfair to cover him.
Benjamin was noticeably eager to make a claim of being “the guy” during his red-shirt sophomore season. “I think I’m going to be that receiver that’s going out there making big plays, motivating the team,” he said. “If we’re third-&-10, go and make that catch for the first down.” The receiver knew that there would be pressure on him, but he also knew what the coaches’ expectations were. Unprepared to meet those requirements when he first arrived on campus in 2011, he was more than prepared to deal with it as the 2013 season opener approached.
“I know there’s a lot of hype going around right now,” he said. “But I just try to stay away from the hype because once you got that hype set so far up, it’s nothing but down from there.” The way the receiver figured it, either way, it seems the only place he’s really going may be up. An up he went, as 46 of his 54 receptions last season produced first downs or touchdowns.
Benjamin converted six third-down tosses and made eleven “highlight reel” catches inside the red zone. He produced forty-two receptions for at least ten yards, along with recording twenty-five grabs that went for distances of twenty yards or longer. In addition to his fifteen scoring catches, he had key receptions on twenty-five other touchdown drives (team recorded 84 touchdowns in 2013, with Benjamin having a hand in forty of them), along with helping set up four possessions that ended in field goals. He reached the end zone in ten of the fourteen games that he appeared in for the Seminoles in 2013.
Benjamin caught the game-winning, two-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston that gave the Seminoles a 34-31 victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.
A few days after the triumph, the receiver announced that he was leaving school and was entering the 2014 NFL Draft pool. Many talent evaluators agree that the Seminole has a perfect blend of size and speed, along with the long arms that he utilizes to do a nice job fully extending to create an enormous catching radius for cornerbacks to try and defend.
Benjamin appeared in twenty-four games at Florida State, starting his final fourteen contests at the “Z” receiver position … Finished with 84 receptions for 1,506 yards (17.93 ypc) and nineteen touchdowns … Also carried the ball twice for 33 yards … Atlantic Coast Conference Career-Record Results … Benjamin’s average of 17.93 yards per reception rank 24th on the ACC all-time record list … ACC Season-Record Results … His fifteen touchdown catches in 2013 tied Andre Cooper of Florida State (1995) and Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech (2006) for fourth on the league’s annual record list, topped by DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson (18 in 2002), Clarkston Hines of Duke (17 in 1989) and Torry Holt of North Carolina State (16 in 1997) … School Career-Record Results … Benjamin’s nineteen touch-down receptions tied Talman Gardner (1999-2002) for tenth place on the FSU all-time record chart … His yards-per-catch average of 17.93 yards rank behind Marvin Minnis (18.24 ypc; 1997-2000) on the school career-record chart … School Season-Record Results … His fifteen touchdown catches in 2013 tied Andre Cooper (1995) for the FSU season-record … Became just the tenth player in FSU history and the first since 2002 to record a 1,000-yard season receiving, as his 1,011 yards in 2013 tied Anquan Boldin (2002) for seventh on the school season-record list … School Game-Record Results … Benjamin’s 212 yards receiving vs. Florida in 2013 rank eighth on the school game-record list.
Benjamin earned All-American first-team honors from Sports Illustrated and second-team accolades from The NFL Draft Report … Received All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team recognition from the league’s coaches and first-team accolades from The NFL Draft Report … Took over “Z” receiver duties, starting all fourteen games … Finished second on the team, as he caught 54-of-87 passes targeted to him (62.07%), becoming the school’s first 1,000-yard receiver (1,011) since 2002 … Averaged 18.72 yards per reception, as he tied the school season-record with fifteen touchdowns, as that figure led the conference and ranked third in the nation behind Brandin Cooks of Oregon State (16) and Davante Adams of Fresno State (24) … Had twelve passes targeted to him deflected by the opposition, but converted 46-of-54 receptions into first downs, including six on third-down plays … 42 of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including 25 for twenty yards or longer … In addition to his fifteen scores, he recorded key receptions to help set up 25 other touch-down drives and on four other possessions that resulted in field goals … Pulled down eleven of his catches inside the red zone, including four on goal-line plays … Four of his first five receptions to open the season were first downs, gaining 73 yards vs. Pittsburgh …
Scored on an 11-yard grab vs. Bethune-Cookman and produced the first of three 100-yard performances when he totaled 103 yards on three snatches vs. Boston College … Added 5- and 21-yard touchdowns vs. Maryland and had a 22-yard score vs. Clemson … Pulled down three balls for 69 yards and a 39-yard touchdown vs. North Carolina State … Leaped over three defenders for an 18-yard touchdown vs. Wake Forest and emerged from a crowd for a 6-yard score while catching six passes for 66 yards vs. Syracuse … Added 32- and 21-yard touchdowns in the Idaho clash … Had a career-high nine receptions, as his 212 yards vs. Florida rank eighth on the school game-record list. He also delivered a career-high three touchdowns for distances of 4, 29 and 45 yards vs. the Gators … Generated 119 yards on five catches with 14- and 54-yard scores vs. Duke in the ACC title clash … Made four catches for 54 yards vs. Auburn, but none were more important than his 2-yard touchdown with thirteen second left to give the Seminoles a 34-31 decision in the BCS National Championship Game.
Benjamin appeared in fourteen games, lining up behind Rodney Smith and Greg Dent on the depth chart at the “Z” receiver position … Still managed to finish fourth on the team with thirty receptions for 495 yards (16.5 ypc) as his four touchdowns ranked second on the squad … also carried twice for 33 yards … In his second game as a Seminole, he4 scored his first touchdowns on grabs of 9- and 19 yards vs. Savannah State … Added 44 yards on four catches vs. Wake Forest, followed by a five-catch performance that totaled 68 yards and included a 6-yard score vs. Boston College … Made three catches for 77 yards and a 35-yard touchdown vs. Duke.
Benjamin enrolled at Florida State, retaining freshman eligibility, as he was red-shirted by the coaching staff, spending the season as a member of the scout team.
2013 Season … Suffered a concussion during the first half of the Wake Forest game and did not return.
4.61 in the 40-yard dash … 1.67 10-yard dash … 2.73 20-yard dash … 4.39 20-yard shuttle … 12.08 60-yard shuttle … 7.33 three-cone drill … 32 ½-inch vertical jump … 9’-11” broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times … 34 7/8-inch arm length … 10 ¼-inch hands … 83-inch wingspan.
Benjamin attended Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.) High School, playing three seasons on the football team … The four-star recruit was rated the eighth-best wide receiver and the 60th-best overall player nationally by Rivals.com and the 12th-rank receiver in the high school ranks by Scout.com … Rated the 23rd-best wide receiver nationally by ESPN … Ranked as the 13th-best wide receiver and the 89th player nationally by 247Sports … Made thirty 30 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns in just eight games as a senior, as he was named first-team All-Palm Beach County by the Sun Sentinel … Ranked 25th on Bill Buchalter’s Florida Top 100 list for the Orlando Sentinel … Placed 36th on the Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120 list … Member of the Times-Union’s Florida Super 75 where he was rated as the top wide receiver … Also received Palm Beach Post All-Area first- team recognition.
Benjamin is enrolled in the University Studies program … Born 2/05/91 in Belle Glade, Florida.