Publish date:

Kelvin Benjamin: The Good, the Great and the Ugly

Kelvin Benjamin is far from being a lock for the Giants' 53-man roster, but here's a taste of what he could bring to the offense if he does manage to stick around.

Once a promising first-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers who eventually gave up on him, Kelvin Benjamin has been out of football since 2018 after being released by both the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. 

After taking some time to reflect, Benjamin wants to resume his NFL career, and he's going to get a chance with the New York Giants, whose general manager, Dave Gettleman, is the one who drafted Benjamin in the first place.

Benjamin seemed to be embroiled in some turmoil over his final few years in the NFL after a promising first two seasons with the Panthers. He appeared to be an afterthought until Gettleman and Joe Judge gave him a tryout in the team's recently completed rookie minicamp.

The tryout went well, and Benjamin was added to the 90-man-roster. In speaking about having Benjamin in camp, Judge said he wanted to see how coachable Benjamin was. After witnessing that firsthand, Judge was satisfied enough with Benjamin's mindset and work ethic to agree to having Benjamin in camp this summer.

Benjamin was drafted in the first round out of Florida State as a wide receiver, where he played for his entire career, albeit he was always a biscuit or so away from being tight end sized at 6’5", 240 pounds.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen him on the football field, but I don’t see much wrong with giving him a shot through camp--it’s a low-risk move for a veteran with a wide catch radius.

I’m not overly optimistic that Benjamin will be able to make this roster in a tight end room with Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, and an athletic option who struggles with blocking in Evan Engram.

It’s challenging to learn the blocking aspect of playing the tight end position. The Giants already have a converted receiver-to-tight end project in Rysen John, the Simon Fraser product, who, by the way, is seven years younger than Benjamin. 

While obviously everyone has to get on the field and show what they have, logic would dictate that John might have a leg up in his conversion.

Nevertheless, Benjamin, the former Seminole, will receive an opportunity. I see nothing wrong with that fact as if nothing else, it allows him to put together some fresh film for the league to view if he gets into any preseason games.

Speaking of film, let’s get into some of his film (it’s a bit dated) in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.

The Good: Contested Catch

This specific clip is from 2016, but the physical toughness and sheer size of a player like Benjamin gives the offense an advantage when the receiver uses his body well to shield through contact. Benjamin can be an effective body catcher--his hands aren’t the greatest, but they’re not a liability either.

According to Pro Football Focus, Benjamin has 24 career drops and 57 contested catches throughout his career. He’s not scared to go across the middle of the field, as we can see in the clip above.

His large catch radius, combined with his weight and size, can be used as a weapon if his concentration is honed. If his athletic ability can be adequate enough to create some separation against safeties and linebackers.

These quick slant routes can work if the receiver wins at the line of scrimmage. The toughness, hands, and ability to not have contact affect the catch are all put together, which they aren’t consistently in Benjamin’s game, then plays like this can happen in high leverage situations.

(bottom of the screen)

Benjamin released inside on this play from 2016. He does a very good job leaning before the slight inside break to create separation in tight coverage.

Benjamin was never known to create quality separation, so these nuances matter. The throw was slightly behind Benjamin, but he adjusts and can bring the football into his frame and fall to the ground, through contact, with possession.

(bottom of the screen)

On this quick dig route, Benjamin gets hit just at the time the football is in his hands, and he’s able to hold onto the ball with the Eagles defender draped all over his back.

I also like how he sets up this dig route; uses good tempo and an outside jab foot to give himself enough time to get inside before the hit.

(bottom of the screen)

The contested catch ability comes in handy in the red zone. Here we see Benjamin take a shot, and he secured the touchdown while getting his feet in bounds.

This was the last and only touchdown that he scored after he was traded from the Panthers, this particular score coming when he was with the Bills back in 2018.

The Great: High Point Ability

Benjamin has just under 35” arms, putting him in the 98th percentile for wide receivers. The catch radius and ability to high point the ball away from his frame and secure it into his big body are vital aspects of his game and maybe his only shot to crack this roster.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

Week 3 Competitive Edge: NYG Offense vs. ATL defense
Play

New York Giants Offense vs. Atlanta Falcons Defense: Who Has the Competitive Edge?

Olivier Dumont takes a deep dive into the numbers, personnel and matchups between the New York Giants offense (running and passing) and the Atlanta Falcons defense to see which team has the competitive edge.

Jan 24, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning announces his retirement during a press conference at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Play

Eli Manning Reflects on His New York Giants Legacy

He was the crown prince of the 2004 draft class, but in the end, Eli manning raved no special treatment and worked just as hard if not harder than any of his contemporaries.

Dec 9, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) walks off the field after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in overtime at Lincoln Financial Field.
Play

Unveiling Eli Manning's Most Memorable Career Games

This weekend the Giants will honor Eli Manning by retiring his jersey and inducting him into the franchise's Ring of Honor. Ahead of that, here's a look back at some of Eli's most memorable games.

(top of the screen)

He didn’t have a great game against the Patriots in 2018 as cornerback Stephon Gilmore made his presence felt. Yet Benjamin came away with this nice back-shoulder play where he high points the ball and picks up a first down.

As I stated before, creating separation is not Kelvin Benjamin’s strength, but using his size to his advantage can make him stand out. He’s done this solidly throughout his career, but can it translate to the tight end position?

(top of the screen)

This is an excellent example of a high-low situation where having a large catch radius can come in handy. The Panthers put the flat defender in conflict, and he has to respect the route in the flat but doesn’t want to give Benjamin too much space behind him due to a possible clear-out.

Having a large catch radius gives the quarterback the ability to be safe and put the ball high and away from the underneath defender. Benjamin quickly climbs the ladder and secures the ball.

(top of the screen)

Here he extends away from his frame, not necessarily high pointing the ball, but uses his length to extend in front of him, with forward momentum, to make a tough catch in tight coverage.

Again, this isn’t high pointing the ball, but it’s a fantastic catch away from his frame with a beautiful route stem. He quickly sells vertical, and then at the 20-yard-line, he decelerates, sinks his hips, sells the dig, and then pivots back outside with the defender fooled. The catch he makes is tough and shows great lower body explosiveness and length. This play was from 2017.

(top of the screen)

This catch requires concentration while moving and the length to leap over the top of a defender in a one-on-one situation to make a catch for the touchdown.

The Giants have to imagine that Benjamin has the possibility of being athletic enough to run with linebackers and safeties while using his size and ball skills to win from a tighter alignment.

The blocking will remain a question mark, but does he have enough juice to separate against less athletic defenders relative to the corners that he was accustomed to facing.

The Ugly: Separation

(top of the screen)

(top of the screen)

(bottom of the screen)

(top of the screen)

These are all videos of Benjamin’s struggles to create separation and his lack of versatility in his release packages. They’re on vertical routes and horizontal breaking routes.

Tight coverage is something that Benjamin is used to seeing, and two years away from football is not a great start with fixing his separation ability. The move to tight end will help him face up against lesser athletes, but the responsibility that comes with a new position isn't an easy task.

Benjamin has an uphill climb to make this final roster, but a good camp and coachability will be an excellent start for this player who is looking to make a comeback in the NFL.


What's next for the Giants this off-season? Sign up for our FREE newsletter for all the latest, and be sure to follow and like us on Facebook.

Submit your questions for our mailbag. And don't forget to check out the daily LockedOn Giants podcast, also available for subscription wherever you find podcasts.