If Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans is off the board by the time the Green Bay Packers are on the clock in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft—and he very likely will—maybe the Packers will consider the next best thing.
While Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin doesn't have quite the same experience as Evans, he's nearly the same size and has an equally high ceiling.
"Evans and Benjamin are kind of today's flavor in the NFL, those 6' 5", 230-pound wide receivers, the back shoulder throws, outside the numbers in the red zone," said NFL Network Draft analyst Mike Mayock.
As long as Jermichael Finley remains a free agent, the Packers are missing the type of tall, downfield threat that can stretch the field and be a dangerous weapon in the aresenal of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Should Benjamin be available when the Packers have the 21st overall selection, he might make them think twice when trying to decide between filling a need on the defensive side of the football or adding some extra firepower to the offense.
Benjamin showed just how valuable he can be when he caught the game-winning touchdown from quarterback Jameis Winston with just 13 seconds remaining in the BCS National Championship win over Auburn this past season.
"It was a simple slant route," said Benjamin at the NFL Combine. "I knew Jimbo (Fischer) was coming back to me. Whenever there was a catch on the line or a touchdown on the line, he was coming back to me and it was a slant route. I knew (the defensive back) was thinking fade and so I tried to sell him on that fade route. Three steps out, I got inside of him and just did what I do best, which is attack it at the highest point."
Compared to other highly-rated college receivers like Davante Adams, who had 131 receptions this past season, or Brandin Cooks, who had 128, Benjamin didn't catch many passes. One reason for the lack of catches was a few too many dropped balls. The Seminoles wideout had just 54 receptions in 2013, but he managed to make each of them count.
Of the 54 passes Benjamin caught, they covered 1,011 yards, an average of 18.7 yards per catch.
"First, catching it, that was one of my problems," said Benjamin. "Seeing the yards before, I start to run and I wound up dropping the ball. That’s something I really have to work on. Once you catch it, you just have to keep moving, keep your legs going and get up field and everything else will take care of itself."
Benjamin also caught 15 touchdown passes, which led the ACC and ranked third nationally. Despite his efforts, Benjamin couldn't even crack the all-conference first team, but he probably will forget the oversight if a team recognizes his value and makes him a first round draft choice in May.
The Packers have no shortage of talent at the wide receiver position with players like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the up-and-coming Jarrett Boykin on the roster but lost some depth when James Jones departed in free agency last month.
At 23 years old and declaring for the NFL Draft after just his redshirt sophomore season, Benjamin might be lacking in experience, but he likes to think he's matured the past few years of his life.
"Just growing up and being a man," said Benjamin. "I’ve learned to do the things you have to do to be a man. Before I was basically just being a kid, doing kid things. Not putting in the work you need to put in to be a great receiver."
If Benjamin continues along the same path and trajectory he's been on since playing just three years of high school football, he just might just reach that "great receiver" category eventually.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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