Going into this season there were high hopes for the talented wideout from Glades Central HS (Belle Glade, FL), who has always been known for his immense physical gifts but hadn’t seemed to put it all together yet. He finished his redshirt freshman campaign in 2012 with a respectable 30 receptions for 495 yards (16.5 ypr) and four touchdowns, and similar, if not slightly higher numbers were expected in 2013, despite playing with a freshman QB (Jameis Winston).
Well, turns out that freshman QB wasn’t so bad and is now probably going to win the Heisman Trophy. With the development of Winston came the development of Benjamin, who quickly developed into the most dangerous big-play threat in the ACC and arguably the best red zone receiver in the country.
Through the first nine games, Benjamin was playing very well with just 27 receptions for 499 yards and six touchdowns. But then Benjamin went off the rails, exploding through the Noles’ final four games to the tune of 23 receptions for 458 yards and eight more scores. On the season, Benjamin pulled in 50 receptions for 957 yards. The two most impressive numbers were his 14 TD receptions and an average of 19.1 yards per reception.
Still, stats aren’t the primary reason he’s been flying up draft boards. The physical gifts are what has this guy turning heads. Benjamin is built like Calvin Johnson at 6-foot 5, 235-pounds. He uses that gigantic frame naturally very well, boxing, screening, breaking jams, etc. He’s a big, physical wide receiver who can and will overpower you.
But he’s still very raw. He’s still learning the complexities of technique, reading coverages and route running all while developing more consistent hands. All of that comes with practices, film and game snaps — or in other words, time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that despite his build resembling Johnson he doesn’t have anywhere close to the same speed. Johnson, at that considerable size, ran a blistering 4.32 40-yard dash, nearly disproving The Kinetic Theory of Matter. Benjamin, on the other hand, has been rumored to being timed in the high 4.5 to low 4.6 range.
Those are good times if you’re playing tight end but not for someone being sold as a big play deep-threat at the next level. As with the case of Texas A&M‘s Mike Evans, just a couple fractions of the 40-time could mean millions to Benjamin assuming he goes pro as many are expecting.
If Benjamin does decide to take his talents to the pros and enter the 2014 NFL Draft he’ll go early. I’m not sure if he could sneak into the first round, but it’s hard imagining a world where Benjamin is still available after two rounds.
If Benjamin plays well in the robust national spotlight of the National Championship Game, you should probably go ahead and pencil him in for entering the draft. After that, it’ll all come down how fast he runs to determine how early he goes.