When I try to think about whether I might spend a 1st round rookie pick on Kelvin Benjamin, the thing that I keep coming back to is the question of whether Benjamin’s size will mean more for his pro career than his lackluster college resume means. I tend to believe that the NFL is a system ripe for exploitation by a team willing to simply throw bigger players out there to score touchdowns against defenses which in most cases haven’t been optimized to stop bigger players. We know that bigger players score touchdowns at higher rates than smaller players and also that TEs are more red zone efficient than WRs. Benjamin is about 240 pounds and his red zone TD rate in 2013 was 54%. It seems reasonable to expect that he would be decent at scoring.
It’s true that he was generally competing against players that were younger than he was, but I don’t think it’s the case that he’s so old that he has to be ruled out. Benjamin played his final game about 8 months older than Anquan Boldin played his final college game. Dwayne Bowe was just 7 months younger than Benjamin when he played his last college game. But the difference between Benjamin and those receivers, who are Benjamin’s most optimistic comps, can be illustrated by looking at the difference in Games Dominated. Boldin had recorded 10 games of at least .35 Dominator Rating, while Bowe had recorded 16. Benjamin has recorded just 1 game with a DR over .35.
In Benjamin’s case I think that his size is giving me problems because of how much bigger he is than most WR prospects. If a team used a late 1st or early 2nd round pick on a tight end like Benjamin and I had reason to believe that the team intended to get him involved in the passing game, then I would likely be all in on him. But Benjamin isn’t a TE and isn’t eligible at that position. That probably makes a pretty big difference.
The place where Benjamin will likely require a decision from fantasy owners is in the middle of the 1st round in rookie drafts. Owners picking in that part of the draft will likely have to decide between Benjamin or a group that might contain Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews and Allen Robinson. Basically the choice will be between Benjamin and some RotoViz favorites. It might seem like an easy choice, but of that group which player would you be least surprised to see turn in a 14 TD season at the NFL level?