Florida State's Benjamin the type of wideout Eagles would love

Posted: February 24, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Kelvin Benjamin, the 6-5, 240-pound Florida State wide receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the National Championship game, would seem to be exactly the sort of weapon both Eagles fans and Chip Kelly have coveted.

Maybe that's why Benjamin gets mentioned as the Birds' possible first-round selection, at 22nd overall, in a lot of mock drafts, including one from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Listening to Benjamin recount that title-game winner yesterday at the NFL Scouting Combine definitely set the mind wandering to what Benjamin might do, catching passes from Nick Foles in Kelly's varied, field-stretching attack. The TD that gave the Seminoles a 34-31 victory over Auburn was a classic big receiver-in-the-red-zone grab, Benjamin walling off Auburn cornerback Chris Davis in the middle of the field.

"It was a simple slant route," Benjamin said. "I knew [Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher] was coming back to me. I knew [Davis] was thinking fade, so I was going to try and sell him on that fade route, take three steps out, cut inside him and do what I do best, catch the ball at the highest point."

That's a big-time skill, a combination of size, jumping ability and body control that makes Benjamin elite, despite occasional problems with drops, despite the fact he doesn't have great speed. (Benjamin said yesterday he hopes to run a 4.3 40 here. If that happens, he'll be long gone by the 22nd pick. He could just as easily drop out of the first round, with a slow time.)

A reporter asked yesterday whether the title-winner, scored with 13 seconds remaining, really was the way it looked on those zillion TV replays - did Benjamin actually jump before quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball, and just hang there until it arrived?

"Yeah, sometimes I like to jump early," said Benjamin, whose 11 career red-zone catches went for 10 touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Info. "It throws the DB off."

Benjamin said not getting to play for the national championship the year before was a key point in his development. He said the 2013 season was about "growing up, being a man."

Before that, "I was basically a kid, doing kid things, not putting in the work needed to be a great receiver."

He added: "Seeing the season that we had [in 2012], knowing that we could have gone to the national championship, knowing that we left a lot out there on the field, I just wanted to turn it around for the team."

Benjamin grew up in Belle Glade, Fla., sometimes called "Muck City" because of the mucky soil in which sugar cane grows. The area has produced a lot of elite athletes. Benjamin said that's because poverty nurtures "the determination to be great."

"It's a bad environment down there," he added.

Is it true he used to chase rabbits through the cane fields?

"Everybody chased rabbits back when they were small," Benjamin said. "They was good to eat. They're really good, if you've never had them before. But that also helps with speed and agility and things like that."

Benjamin was held back twice in elementary school, he confirmed, which is why he just turned 23, though his final season at Florida State, he was a redshirt sophomore. He probably could have used more work on the drops and on route-running, but with the draft becoming more and more about 20- and 21-year-olds, waiting longer would have made his age a significant negative.

A team drafting him, Benjamin said, will get "a guy that'll never give up . . . If I need to work on something, my route-running, my techniques, that's what I'm going to do."

"I love press coverages," said Benjamin, who said he measured at 4 percent body fat. USA Today compared him to Plaxico Burress, though presumably not in the way he handles firearms.

Complimented about his ability to gain yardage after the catch, Benjamin linked that talent to one of his shortcomings.

"That was one of my problems, seeing the yards before I start to run, and then I end up dropping the ball. They're called 'focus drops,' you know?"

The draft is still more than 2 months away, but Benjamin probably ranks behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans, maybe behind USC's Marqise Lee. He might be in the same ballpark as Penn State's 6-4, 215-pound Allen Robinson.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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