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10 Red Flag Rookie WRs to Acquire (Part 3): K-Benjy and the Northern Longshots

kelvinbenjamin

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on 10 red flag rookie WRs who I think 1) have the potential to overcome their red flags and 2) are discounted relative to their inherent values.

In Part 1—in which I looked at Jarvis Landry and two other players—I said this:

Red flags create situations in which assets are mispriced because the market as a whole assigns too much significance to those red flags. Yes, sometimes red flags are useful in highlighting horrid investments, but just as often (in my opinion) red flags, especially in fantasy, point to opportunities to acquire potentially useful assets at discounts to their inherent values.

You know who agrees with me? Paul Richardson and the Desert Lilliputians, all of whom I profiled in Part 2. Anyway, here are the last 4 red flag rookie WRs I think are decent draft/waiver targets. They’re presented in no certain order—sort of.

#7 Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers

In our Pre-Draft Rookie WR Rankings, I was the ranker who was highest on the guy I’ve dubbed “K-Benjy”—just so there’s no confusion on where I stand.

Here’s a heat map from RotoViz’s College Career Graph App comparing Benjamin to Mike Evans:

On fewer targets K-Benjy captured a greater percentage of his team’s receiving TDs—but we already knew that K-Benjy is fairly efficient. He lags Evans in Yds/Tar but dominates him in rzTD/rzTar—and the difference between Evans’ .30 TotDR and K-Benjy’s 0.295 is smaller than John Brown’s hands. Based on the numbers here, no one can objectively look at what these guys did in 2013 and say that one was clearly more productive.

But what about their raw 2013 stats? Here they are, broken down to allow for an analysis of efficiency:

Name

Season

Age

Tar/Gm

Rec/Tar

Yds/Tar

Yds/Gm

TDs/Tar

TDs/Gm

Mike Evans

rSO

20

7.6

0.7

14.08

107.23

0.12

0.92

Kelvin Benjamin

rSO

22

6.2

0.62

11.62

78.64

0.17

1.07

Evans was superior in 2013 at turning targets into receptions and yards—and he received more targets per game—but despite this advantage Evans still scored fewer TDs/Gm than Benjamin, who was superior at turning targets into scores, which probably isn’t a surprise, since he’s the bigger WR—and in general the bigger the receiver the better—and Benjamin uses his size to score TDs from all over the field.

A couple of rhetorical questions to which you already know the answers: What are more important?—touchdowns or yards? Touchdowns. What are more irreplaceable?—touchdowns or yards? Touchdowns. I don’t care that K-Benjy didn’t get a lot of yards—because the only WRs to score more TDs than he did in 2013 were Davante Adams and Brandin Cooks—and he still got over 1000 yards on the season, so it’s not like he was the ACC’s Quincy Enunwa.

Florida State had three WRs within spitting distance of 1000-yard seasons going into the National Championship Game. Can you blame Benjamin for being in an offense that insists on spreading the ball around to other capable receivers? To me, what’s important is that, regardless of what happened between the 20s, Florida State increasingly made sure to get the ball to Benjamin in the red zone as the season went on and wins were at a premium—that’s how K-Benjy managed to put up 8 TDs in his final 4 games. And, lest ye forget, that’s ultimately how they won a National Championship. That’s right—THIS GUYS’S A WINNER!!!

In my National Championship Game Preview, I had this to say:

With his size, production, and expected draft status, Benjamin will be a guy to target in dynasty drafts almost regardless of what he does in his pre-draft workouts. With a slow 40 time, he could be a slightly shorter and thicker Plaxico Burress. . . . I won’t blaspheme by saying he could have Calvin Johnson upside—he doesn’t have that kind of speed—but the thing about Megatron is that he’d be good even if he were slower. Benjamin has Megatron size. If he were a poor man’s Megatron, that’d still be pretty frakking awesome.

As the first RotoViz contributor to write on Benjamin, I didn’t think I was saying anything unorthodox. After all, if you polled the RV contributors and asked them to identify the three most important team-agnostic factors in determining a WR prospect’s NFL future, almost universally we would give some combination of “size, production, and draft status.”

And yet, despite what I considered to be a RotoVizian statement, few studisticians liked K-Benjy heading into the draft. Why?—primarily because of 1) his age, 2) his overall DR, and 3) particularly the relationship between his age and DR. Additionally, some people have an issue with 4) his size and 5) apparent lack of athleticism—claiming that he’s too big and slow to play WR.

Very early in the pre-draft process, RotoViz noted that K-Benjy’s DR wasn’t all that great for a WR about to turn 23, and in short order K-Benjy’s RotoViz fate was sealed when his low Phenom Index Score was released. I joke when I say this—but before the draft we could barely admit that K-Benjy was better than Bruce Ellington.

Dislike for K-Benjy on RotoViz is so great that Shawn Siegele would rather have the small, slow, and old second-round WR version of Matt Barkley; that Davis Mattek and Rich Hribar would prefer to roster a third-round QB-to-RB convert and fifth-string WR project; that the Douche himself felt the need to defend his decision to select the Carolinian Manchild at 1.09 in a 14-team rookie draft.

You might not like that K-Benjy went in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, making him an Anti-RotoViz Reach—but he is a first-round selection, and I think some people in the fantasy community haven’t embraced that idea yet. Yes, we’ve come so far as to admit that he’s a first-round pick and that he scored a lot of TDs—the first of which most non-RotoViz people predicted and second of which some people ignored leading up to the draft—and we’ve also admitted that he’s fundamentally different than Stephen Hill and Jonathan Baldwin—but basically we think he’s comparable to a whole bunch of non-first-round receivers who don’t come anywhere close to his weight.

In fact, given Benjamin’s 40 time and size (4.61 seconds at 6’5” and 240 lbs.), K-Benjy looks a lot like an athletic TE, particularly Ladarius Green. You might think that’s a problem. I think it’s awesome. Jimmy Graham can put up top-5 WR numbers playing in the slot and split out wide, and Ladarius probably could too if the Chargers ever used him in that capacity. Well, K-Benjy will be used exclusively in that capacity. He’s a move TE who will always be matched up against cornerbacks and safeties much smaller than him. Can’t you already smell the big sweaty TDs this dude will score posting up against the Desmond Trufants of the world?—whom he outweighs by 50 lbs! How are we not excited by this?

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that, instead of drafting Benjamin, the Panthers had traded their first-round pick to San Diego for Ladarius Green, immediately signed him to a five-year team-friendly contract, and announced that they were moving him to WR, where they hoped he’d become Cam Newton’s #1 receiver. How big of a boner would RotoViz have gotten if that had happened? Wouldn’t we have predicted that Green would be a top-10 receiver within a few years? Well, it sort of happened—and all we can say is that Benjamin could be out of the league before his rookie contract expires.

K-Benjy’s red flags aren’t all that big to begin with and have been incredibly overblown. He played his last college season at 22 years old. Lots of WRs do that. He didn’t accumulate lots of yards—but he scored lots of TDs—and his overall DR of 0.295 isn’t dreadful. And can a guy with Calvin Johnson’s size and Plaxico Burress’ speed really be too big and slow to play WR in the NFL?

You see what’s happened?—we’ve nitpicked K-Benjy to such a degree that even his biggest asset—his size—has been dressed up as a shortcoming, and in focusing on his legit shortcomings we’ve allowed ourselves to forget the obvious: Huge first-round WRs who catch lots of TDs in their final college seasons—regardless of anything else—overwhelmingly have NFL success: Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress, and even David Boston. And let’s not forget that even lots of huge TD-scoring non-first-round WRs have success: Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, TB/BUF Mike Williams, and even Joe Jurevicius. I suppose that K-Benjy could be the next Big Mike Williams or Ramses Barden—but wouldn’t you risk that fate for the chance to get the next MegaFitzBryxico, especially with Cam throwing him the ball?

Given K-Benjy’s size, TD production, and draft status, almost all of his red flags to me are irrelevant. They matter—but not nearly as much as the core factors that determine the bulk of one’s NFL future.

The last time I thought a first-round WR was this underrated in certain circles, RotoViz subscribers spent weeks reading about Cordarrelle Patterson. Now we just ranked C-Patz the #18 WR in our Composite Dynasty WR Rankings. I’m not saying that I was right—because there’s still plenty of time for C-Patz to suck. I’m just saying that we’ve been here before, and the other writers on staff no longer think I’m crazy for saying last year that C-Patz might not be horrible in fantasy.1

In these same composite dynasty rankings, as a staff we have K-Benjy as the #48 WR overall. I’m the highest on him at #33. Where do you think we’ll have him in next year’s rankings?

#8 Jeff Janis – Packers
#9 Jared Abbrederis – Packers
Read this. And then read this. And then read on.

#10 Erik Lora – Vikings
Lora is an undrafted 5’10” and 203 lb. 23-year-old FCS slot receiver who just spent the last two years catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois in in the Ohio Valley Conference. You can read more about him here.

In general, undrafted small-school WRs have almost no chance of having NFL success. Lora, meanwhile, has anywhere from a 2% to 10% chance—so, you know, his odds are both horrible and remarkably improved.

What Lora has going for him is his speed (a 40 time of 4.48 to 4.51 seconds), his collegiate production (136-1664-12 in 2012 and 123-1544-19 in 2013), Minnesota’s WR depth chart (after C-Patz and Greg Jennings is very little) and Minnesota’s new QB (Teddy Bridgewater is good).

Basically, he’s the undrafted version of Josh Huff, except he played in the FCS and thus got the ball a lot, broke every school receiving record imaginable, and set the FCS record in 2012 for most receptions in a season.

He might make it in the NFL, becoming the next Danny Amendola—but he probably won’t. Right now, he’s just a name to remember in case he actually makes an active roster.

Want to know about other red flag rookie WRs to target? Check out Parts 1 and 2.

  1. Editor note: we still think you’re crazy, just not for that reason.  (back)

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