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NFL Prospect Analysis – Part 1

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Scott’s analysis – Kelvin Benjamin possesses physical tools that most prospects can only dream of. He is going to wow us this weekend at the combine. At 6’5″, 235 pounds with a likely mid-4.5 40-time, Benjamin is going to cement his status as a first round draft pick.

That said, yes, Benjamin possesses all of the physical tools that we want in a WR. He’s a true monster and almost impossible to cover, especially in the red zone. However, there are a lot of warts in his game at this point that will prevent him from having an immediate impact on the NFL. Let’s start with the most glaring (to me anyway): Benjamin is a below-average route runner who has simply used his size to his advantage. He seems disinterested at times when running routes, which makes it much easier for smaller and inferior defenders to defend him.

Additionally, there have been times where he has shown a lack of effort. He had a relatively high drop percentage last year, which I believe is because of a lack of focus. He’s always been better than his competition, simply because he’s been more physically talented; that won’t happen in the NFL. For a player with his immense size, he doesn’t use his body well to gain separation from smaller defenders off the line, either. As someone who needs time to develop and grasp the professional game, he is a ‘project’ type of player in which I will have to draft day one in order to acquire.

Benjamin is also a bit older. Despite coming off a national-championship season as a redshirt sophomore, Benjamin just celebrated his 23rd birthday. While he’s not encroaching
Brandon Weeden

territory, his age should be a bit worrisome in terms of his long term development. He has yet to get subtle nuances of the game, and had reportedly struggled picking up the nuances of Florida State’s offense. It’s difficult to believe he’ll be better at the next level.

I see Benjamin as a boom-or-bust kind of player. Inevitably, he’ll gain comparisons to Calvin Johnson or Alshon Jeffery based on his size. Unfortunately, there are too many similar big-bodied WRs that have busted, he reminds us of
Stephen Hill
Mark and I were all over the huge bust potential of
Stephen Hill

before the 2012 draft. I do see a much better player in Benjamin than Hill, but there’s also the same bust potential. It’ll depend on where he ends up.

Mark’s analysis – While I love to play the contrarian role to Scott in our write-ups, I am not going to here. He is right about Benjamin, the juice is not worth the squeeze here. Scott referenced
Stephen Hill
but he is not the only early round receiver that has failed to live up to expectations that were artificially inflated due to his size and speed while not factoring in the lack of production. Jon Baldwin and
Brian Quick

are recent examples, but they are not the only ones. Unlike most of these cases , Benjamin does not have the benefit of blaming scheme or quarterback play for his inconsistent production. His college quarterback may be picked No. 1 overall in next year’s draft and by most accounts would be drafted No. 1 this year if he were eligible.

There is one component of Scott’s take in which I disagree with, though. Given his body makeup, I think Benjamin is a decent route runner. There’s room for growth, but most big-bodied receivers have significant route running issues and I did not see that with Benjamin. The problem is when he gets lazy; this part of Scott’s analysis hit the nail on the head. Most football players take plays off, but there’s a fine line between catching your breath for a couple of plays and just being lazy. I think Benjamin falls in the latter category. When he knows the play is designed for him and it’s a scoring opportunity Benjamin plays with a sense of urgency, most other times he does not. This is evident in his production and causes him to look like a poor route runner when he actually is not.

Is this correctable? I have doubts. He’s old as far as prospects go. He started college late and it’s allegedly due to academic reasons. Does he have issues learning new concepts? Is he lazy? Is it both? Whatever the answer, it is not good as far as projecting him to improve his game.

If Benjamin were slotted in the part of the draft in which teams are selecting good players that lack elite measurable or players with elite measurable but questions about their game, I’d be more likely to be on board, especially if he goes to a strong organization. However, I expect him to be drafted on day one; possibly early on day one. I don’t think it’d be wise to bet on him being successful with those expectations. I’ll reconsider if he goes to a strong organization, which will make me more likely to pull the trigger, but highly doubtful.

Mike Evans

WR, Texas A&M

Scott’s analysis – Big, strong, and dominant; Evans burst onto the scene two years ago and never slowed down. He’s a big-bodied WR that unlike Kelvin Benjamin, knows how to use that body to his advantage while running routes. He finds a way to get himself into good position, and routinely uses his size to make the best of where he finds himself. Though his route-running ability is certainly an area he needs to improve upon, he does show more competency than Benjamin. He’s a monster, a huge red zone target, and a player that I think will have success at the next level.

It would seem as though I am high enough on him that I would want him with a top 10 pick in the draft, but that couldn’t be more incorrect. Let me start by saying that I want Evans on my team and think he’ll be a contributor in both fantasy football and the real game. I just don’t see him as a WR that will dominate at the next level, and would be very hesitant to draft him early in the first round. While he possesses the size, along with good body control, his speed is a concern to me. I’m not one that puts metrics into every discussion, but in this case, I have legitimate concerns that he’ll be able to consistently separate from NFL defensive backs. In the red zone, sure, his size is a weapon there. However, I don’t think he’ll be able to consistently gain separation from defenders off the line of scrimmage. Though he does use his strength well to gain some separation off the line, he’s not likely to pull away from defenders.

What I see in him is a poor-man’s
Alshon Jeffery
which isn’t something to sneeze at. However, if I’m spending a top-10 pick on a WR, I want a special athlete there. I’m just not sold Evans is special.

Mark’s analysis – YES! I get to play contrarian to Scott on this one!

Evans’ speed issues are going to be put to bed this weekend. He’s not a trail blazer, but given his body makeup he does not need to be; he just needs to be ‘fast enough.’ This weekend he will prove that he is. Scott is right in that Evans is a much more polished version of Benjamin. He also understands how to read defenses, finding the soft spots to serve as an outlet for his quarterback. He routinely played this role in college when Manziel went into improv mode. Manziel knew where to throw it to Evans to give him the best chance to make the play and Evans knew where to go on the field to give his quarterback the best chance at conversion; a near perfect marriage. The learning curve is going to be very short for Evans and for a prospect of his stature he is going to have an immediate and significant impact.

In any other draft I would say he is a slam dunk top-10 pick (in 2013, top 5), but this class is as deep as any I can remember.
Sammy Watkins

is a better prospect, but No. 2 is debatable between Marqise Lee and Evans; it really depends on the type of receiver a team covets as both of them present completely different skill sets. If Evans is not picked in the top ten he will not last much longer. If he falls out of the top 5 in your rookie draft then owners are making a big mistake.

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

Scott’s analysis – Mason really burst on to the scene during Auburn’s surprising run to the national championship game this season, and he was the biggest reason for their success. Mason has an extremely low center of gravity which allows him to possess good balance, and is very difficult to bring down. He’s a high effort player that shows good vision, and as a result has shot up draft boards.

However, I truly question Mason’s ability to succeed at the next level. I like Mason, I just don’t see him being anything more than the weak end of a committee backfield at the next level. He’s smallish for a running back (5’10, 195 pounds), and though we’ve seen smaller backs succeed, they all do things that Mason hasn’t been able to do, yet. We have yet to see whether or not he’s capable of being a good pass-catching back, but I have my concerns. Additionally, Tre’s biggest weakness is certainly his ability to pass-protect. If he’s unable to do so at the next level, he’s going to have a hard time having an impact in the NFL.

While Mason certainly has shown the ability to run well, and in space, he doesn’t show the kind of high-end speed that we’d expect from someone his size. Without true breakaway speed, it makes it tough to see him as the kind of back that will have a huge impact, even with improved blocking skills. I do like Mason, and would love to have him on my NFL team. He’s easy to root for, he runs hard, and heck, his dad was in De La Soul. That being said, I’m not banking on him as a starter at the next level.

Mark’s analysis – J.A.G., just a guy. That’s Tre Mason. He’s exactly who I want as my real team’s third running back. A high effort guy that will get what the defense gives him, but that’s about it. If given space he has some decent (not great) juke moves and takes advantage of defenders who don’t have their feet under them, but that won’t happen much at the next level. He’s just not going to have a Greg Robinson vs. college defender advantage to run behind.

The problem with Mason is he is going to be drafted with at least committee back expectations. While he may live up to that, his ceiling is capped. As a day two/early day three pick, I expect more from a running back prospect. If he unexpectedly slips beyond that, great, pick him up. An unexciting No. 2 back, preferably No. 3 back, is a great value in the 5th or 6th round. Just please don’t go spending a 1st round rookie pick on him because he plays running back. Situation means more than anything at this position, but ultimately, skill trumps all, and this will catch up to Mason.

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