Kelvin Benjamin, the Missing Piece?

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The Kansas City Chiefs have a bunch of weapons at receiver; a ton of speed with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins (when healthy), size with Demetrius Harris and Travis Kelce, and role playing receivers in Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson (who has speed too). With all of this talent, you figure they have it all, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

Kelce and Harris can line up anywhere on the field and get up for it, but they have had some issues with drops, Kelce a little more this year in that area. Hill isn’t tall so he isn’t a first thought when down in the red zone, and the other guys need a little separation in order to get a catch.

Thursday the Chiefs brought in Kelvin Benjamin for a workout after he went unclaimed on waivers. Before he was signed later that evening, I was not very fond of the idea of bringing him in. But with Watkins’ foot injury becoming a concern,  and the news that he re-injured it in practice on Thursday, the Chiefs could use all of the talent at WR they can take.

When I started looking at Benjamin’s starts this season, I was unimpressed. He showed lack of effort in the run game and extreme inconsistency getting open or getting free of man coverage. But I started to think back to his rookie season in Carolina and so I went to watch it and Benjamin has been the same kind of receiver for most of his NFL career. 

Benjamin is one on one with Mike Jenkins for Tampa Bay; being a rookie, the Bucs don’t give Jenkins any help over top. They figure he can take the rookie, they also aren’t worried about Benjamin running by Jenkins. On the snap Benjamin only looks to get to the outside. Jenkins wants to use the sideline as his friend so he’s okay with that; Jenkins runs with Benjamin to the end zone and somehow, Benjamin comes down with the ball for the touchdown.

It wasn’t anything fancy or breathtaking, but Benjamin found a way to make the touchdown catch. That’s what I took away from this review. He doesn’t need speed, or separation, or even running great routes. He just has an instinct for catching the ball while covered and that is something the Chiefs need. A lot of the throws Mahomes makes, receivers are creating separation and making it easy for Mahomes. We know he can throw into tight windows as well, and this signing is going to give him an opportunity to showcase that.

Benjamin doesn’t lead the NFL in anything impressive, but I noticed that he was targeted a bunch on deep throws, which didn’t make any sense to me. Benjamin is seventh in the NFL in average targeted air yards according to Next Gen Stats, which is a fancy way of saying that he gets targeted a lot downfield. Being the best receiver on the Bills for the last year, he saw a bit more double coverage than the rest of the Bills receivers. Without elite speed or route running why was he getting double coverage? 

On this play he is bracketed underneath by a safety and overtop by a corner. But the safety underestimates the speed from Benjamin, that’s all that space that Benjamin needs to make a catch. One of the more accurate throws from Josh Allen, and Benjamin makes the catch for a 35 yard gain.

Benjamin is still a deep threat in the NFL. Not because he can run by people, even though he does on the play above, but because he allows for QBs to throw him open. Separation is great, but being able to make tight window catches can make a difference in a football game.

There is one elite trait that Benjamin possesses. That is high pointing a football. He can go up and make a play on the ball at its highest point (coming down) and bring it in over defenders that are in his way, and here’s the proof. 

There are three defenders around Benjamin when he gets to the end zone; two of those defenders have their eyes on Benjamin. Benjamin is taller than each member of the secondary around him, and when the ball is coming down, he times his jump perfectly. He catches the ball at his highest point. He times his jump with the trajectory of the ball as it is coming down in the end zone and he catches it over three defenders. If the ball doesn’t hit a defenders helmet coming down in the end zone, he completes the catch for a touchdown.

Yeah, I am hyping up Benjamin a lot, but look where he is coming. He’s coming into KC, where the attention is going to be on Hill and Kelce. Hell, defenses might even put more emphasis on covering Conley or Robinson when they are on the field at the same time. For the first time in Benjamins’ entire career, he will not be the focal point of a passing offense, not that he’s ever been a part of a great pass offense.

According to Pro-Football Reference, Benjamins’ rookie season was the best pass offense the Panthers had while he was a part of that team, 19th in attempts and 19th in yards. Every season after that they were 20th or worse in both categories. Then being a part of a Bills team that threw out five different QBs while Benjamin was there, it’s no shock he never got in a rhythm in Buffalo.

There’s another thing that Benjamin is able to do better than any of the receivers on the Chiefs roster, he gets around to the ball on a back shoulder throw. His eyes are always looking for the ball, and on back shoulder throws he will make the catch. 

The looks of this game is clearly a running game, it’s snowy and cold and it’s hard to catch the ball in this kind of weather. Having to run slower than he normally would, Benjamin runs downfield, covered in step with Kenny Moore of the Colts. Moore keeps his eyes fixed on Benjamin and not the ball, throwing this ball to the back shoulder is throwing Benjamin open. Anywhere else it’s an incompletion; Benjamin does a great job waiting until the last second to get his shoulders around to make the catch. He gets his feet inbounds, in the snow, and it’s a first down.

I saw Benjamin catch a number of these throws while watching tape, and that kind of talent cannot go unnoticed. He has a knack for finding the ball while being covered, and he’s had a lot of practice with that since he isn’t great at creating separation. He doesn’t get a lot of yards after the catch either, but he’s not easy to bring down when he has space in front of him.

I have seen a lot of posts about issues with Benjamin’s weight; he’s listed at 245, which is five pounds heavier than he was when he joined the league in 2014. That is not the issue, clearly. The problem I saw on tape was effort in the run game. 

The Bills are running a counter run to the A-gap on the left side (left to right on the video), Benjamin is not to the play side and gets to his assignment and stand there. No effort to move the defender, he stands on the inside and lets the defender go where he wants to, standing straight up and not trying.

Being a part of a Bills team that has been terrible in recent years can wear on any player, it’s no excuse to not play with effort all the time, but I believe that will not happen in Kansas City. Andy Reid and co are some of the best at getting the most out of players they bring in, especially on offense. Seeing as how Benjamin will be a free agent at the end of the season, this is acting as a prolonged potential tryout for the Chiefs. They could be looking to see if Benjamin wants to play here for the future, which would make an already potent offense even better, assuming he comes in and plays well.

Benjamin is not coming in to be a WR/TE hybrid, like some people have speculated. He came to Kansas City for the best opportunity of his career. He is going to be a third or fourth option on this team. With the way Reid scheme’s players open, it’s very possible that Benjamin could see some of the most production he’s had in a while. He’s going to get looks in the end zone for sure, strong hands and the ability to go up and get it are invaluable in that area of the field. Adding more receivers could also be a way to open up the run game for the Chiefs.

I know I have raised expectations of the signing of Benjamin, but I will say I am cautiously optimistic about the addition of Benjamin. He is a former first round WR, and deserves to prove that he can still play with the talent that got him drafted. With Reid looking to get him involved, I think he adds a dimension the Chiefs have been missing on offense. Benjamin will probably be inactive this week against the Ravens, but will be on the field a lot against the Chargers a week from now. I’m looking forward to see what he can do with an All-Pro caliber QB throwing him the ball.

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StramtoReid
StramtoReid
12/09/2018 9:31 am

If i understand Sammy Watkins contract, the Chiefs can opt out of Watkins contract after next year. I don’t know how the Chiefs can pay Hill and Watkins, so i don’t mind kicking the tires on Benjamin. I am curious on how Reid wants to use Benjamin, i don’t see him as a #2 receiver in the future.

TNCHIEFS
12/08/2018 5:09 pm

Mahomes raises the level of play for teammates. And maybe the lure of a possible SB run along with another chance, we’ll see a little more from Benjamin for the few weeks left in this season.

legal_kush
legal_kush
12/08/2018 3:58 pm

Kudos for a quick and insightful analysis. First writer to adequately describe

at its highest point (coming down) and bring it in over defenders

Tyrone
Reply to  legal_kush
12/09/2018 1:16 am

Still doesn’t make sense. There should be no mention of “highest point” unless referring to the players highest point.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Tyrone
12/09/2018 2:12 am

Agreed. Catching the ball at the highest point for any receiver to catch the ball after jumping. However, it only stands to reason that height plays a big role in that.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
12/09/2018 2:13 am

In being a high-point catch specialist, that is.

Kholdstare1
Kholdstare1
12/08/2018 3:32 pm

So is Benjamin going to be the new Branden Albert? Because I think his natural position is left guard

ArrowSpread
ArrowSpread
12/08/2018 3:16 pm

Only thing I think we’ll get out is this is a another guy that can win an off-schedule jump ball. Which is great. Remember that ball to Kemp in preseason? Is Benjamin a better receiver than Kemp? Absolutely. Robinson too for that matter. Clear upgrade over those guys, for a minimum.

MSoko
MSoko
Reply to  ArrowSpread
12/08/2018 8:56 pm

That’s where I’m at with it. Super low risk, and definitely doesn’t have to be “the guy”. As a former first rounder, we could do worse for a #4 (or lower) option.

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979
12/08/2018 2:58 pm

I question the effort and the character . But even if he comes in focused and determined to learn the offense, he only has a handful of games to do that in. If he were going to have any impact, I wish we would have gotten him earlier in the season

Maw423
Maw423
12/08/2018 1:31 pm

He definitely adds a huge wrinkle to our red zone offense. Height kills (in the redzone)!

Maw423
Maw423
12/08/2018 1:14 pm

comment image

A Lunar Ting
12/08/2018 12:55 pm

Army Navy Open Thread, anyone?

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  A Lunar Ting
12/08/2018 12:59 pm

I’ll throw up an open college thread…I assume theres more games coming…

A Lunar Ting
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 1:10 pm

Well, it’s just Army Navy as far as major CFB. Traditional game.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  A Lunar Ting
12/08/2018 2:35 pm

I don’t follow college ball…there’s only 1 game on today?

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 2:55 pm

Army vs Navy and there is a D2 playoff game. Bowl season starts later in the week

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  saints_chiefsfan1979
12/08/2018 3:22 pm

Hope you’re taking notes. We need prospect reviews!!!

Lars
Lars
12/08/2018 12:37 pm
tecmo_sb35
tecmo_sb35
12/08/2018 12:28 pm

Yesterday I was “meh”about this signing. Then those wizards at AG went all film mode and now I am on board.
Now I can go back to thinking B Sutton is just scheming his D to help PM get the td record.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  tecmo_sb35
12/08/2018 12:38 pm

Kudos to Dan. This is the 2nd week in a row he churned out a player review on short notice (Spencer Ware last Sat).

optional
optional
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 1:49 pm

Agreed, he’s awesome, like the other AG writers. He changed my mind on the signing, though i am not sure how effective KB can be in the new system or how quickly KB and Mahomes can get on the same page.

Spider
Spider
12/08/2018 12:27 pm

Low cost, low risk, potentially high upside…but I’m not expecting much. I’m not any more impressed with his skill set now than I was when he was in college. Jump-ball receiver.

ArrowSpread
ArrowSpread
Reply to  Spider
12/08/2018 3:19 pm

Jump ball receiver for a team that suffered a huge blow with the loss of Hunt in goal-to-go situations

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan
12/08/2018 12:18 pm

Do you think that maybe one of our WRs or Kelce or someone might be able to work with him on his route running? Perhaps something like that paired with working with an elite QB and HOF coach on a great team that is a contender might help Benjamin reach his full potential?

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan
Reply to  Daniel Harms
12/08/2018 12:26 pm

That’s a good point. We have to start thinking about some alternatives if Watkins can’t stay healthy or if they need to part with him(due to inability to stay healthy). Plus we already have a number of holes to deal with already and likely don’t want to add WR to our list of draft needs. Also, Conley may be coming due soon as well.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  Daniel Harms
12/08/2018 12:39 pm

Yeah, I don’t even know who our WR coach is, but I probably should considering this team drafted a RB in the 5th round (I think) and turned him into a Top 3 WR in just 2 years.

ForeverRanger91
ForeverRanger91
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 12:56 pm

Our WR coach was Culley but it is now former Eagles WR Greg Lewis.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  ForeverRanger91
12/08/2018 1:01 pm

I really should know that. Eagles been my NFC team for a long damn time. Thats awesome.

KC15
KC15
12/08/2018 11:56 am

Slow, can’t run routes, lacks motivation to get better. My expectations are low, any production at all will be a nice surprise.

Team Player
Team Player
Reply to  KC15
12/08/2018 12:15 pm

Glad you aren’t my boss. ?

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan
Reply to  KC15
12/08/2018 12:21 pm

The guy wasn’t a first round pick for nothing. Now it is entirely possible he could just be a bust. We see it all the time. But we also see players who are poor fits with some teams and some schemes who go to different places or are even bounced around the league and find a home with certain coaches and schemes and they go on to have productive careers and sometimes great careers. At any rate, it was a cheap prove it deal and Benjamin has 3+ games to show us (and other teams in the league) his stuff.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  KC15
12/08/2018 12:43 pm

You can’t coach height.

He’s got pretty good hands, regardless of speed (ran a 4.61 40) or route running, its hard not to imagine just telling him to run to the corner of the EZ and catch a jump ball…combined with Mahomes arm talent he could be a monster in the red zone regardless of knowing the playbook or being able to get open.

ForeverRanger91
ForeverRanger91
Reply to  KC15
12/08/2018 12:57 pm

If he can block I say line his ass up at TE.

alsi2
alsi2
12/08/2018 11:53 am

If he is a player that struggles with motivation, he will need to show up and play hard on a lot of downs where he isn’t targeted and not only give effort on running plays but block downfield for other receivers. If he isn’t willing to put in the hard work for those plays, he won’t be seeing the field much. Given the short side of the season plus the playbook he needs to learn (presumably a limited version customized for his potential participation), he will have limited opportunities and he will be expected to make the most of them. Unfortunately, if he truly tends to be a lazy player, given he cleared waivers before getting an opportunity, he can probably motivate himself for a few games and may show up and look good. Long-term, he may just be about getting paid and then going back to his lazy comfort zone.

He may be here for just the end of this season, get the most out of his short-term motivated self, and then go unsigned by the Chiefs after that.

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan
Reply to  alsi2
12/08/2018 12:28 pm

He just needs to know that he needs to do his job at all times because with Mahomes the ball could be coming to him at any given time.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  alsi2
12/08/2018 12:43 pm

Playing for the current 1 seed might just be the motivational boost he needs

vvet818
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 2:40 pm

If he can’t get motivated with this team he needs to get into a new line of work!

kcchiefsfan72
kcchiefsfan72
12/08/2018 11:45 am

Nice read, great article. I was on the draft him train coming out of college. He has never been great with separation but learning the route tree here may aid in that. Love his height and ability to high point the ball. I am optimistic about him coming in here with the weapons that we already have in place. He has to see this as a springboard to a better contract, because opportunity is knocking. Mahomes will utilize his height and hands. Reid and company can turn him around, but he has to want it. What gets me the most excited, as you said, is that he will be an afterthought to most DCs.

BleedingRedAndGold
12/08/2018 11:33 am

Yeah, I get your concerns WRT blocking, though I think the rest of the WR room will be all over him if he takes those plays off. As a ggroup, they appear to take pride in being blockers as well as ball carriers.

What intrigues me more is that from your run-down, he appears to be a sure-handed cold-weather receiver. As you said, in the cold, that ball can be pretty slick, and for some people (like me), the cold can get their hands stiffened up from the cold. Undoubtedly no NFL WR gets it as bad as I do, but even a little bit likely makes a difference at this level.

But on a frosty day in Arrowhead, where teams are thinking run first, run second and pass when they have to, having a guy with good cold-weather hands ought to be an asset.

Pelletman
Pelletman
12/08/2018 11:23 am

Mahomes, Hill, Kelce, Hunt, Watkins was SUCH a sweet lineup 🙁

A Lunar Ting
Reply to  Pelletman
12/08/2018 11:33 am

Obligatory #RunningbacksDontMatter reply from me 😉

severn58
severn58
12/08/2018 11:12 am

Sounds like the best case scenario is a bigger Dwayne Bowe, “Kelvin Benjamin was never an elite route runner, or great at getting separation. But he still catches the ball.”

I’m not expecting a whole lot, but am cautiously optimistic.

Anthony Stratton
Reply to  severn58
12/08/2018 11:15 am

I think just from a personnel standpoint he’s a matchup nightmare for DC’s. Put him and Kelce on the field and you got two 6’5 targets. That’s just not fair for you to expect most DB’s to be able to cover them on jump balls and most LB’s can’t run with them.

I’m intrigued, of course I was also a guy who wanted to draft KB.

severn58
severn58
Reply to  Anthony Stratton
12/08/2018 11:18 am

Throw in Stone Hands Harris and that’s a whole lot of Stretch Armstrong on the field at one time, you’d think it would at least look interesting in the Red Zone.

sportingchiefs
Reply to  severn58
12/08/2018 11:29 am

And Conley who is 6’3″….

ChiefOfTheWolfpack
ChiefOfTheWolfpack
Reply to  severn58
12/08/2018 11:19 am

I think it’ll work because he’s not going to be a top option with Hill and Kelce absorbing targets. He is a mismatch against basically anyone under 6’1 and we know the Chiefs will scheme him up against some poor small corner in the red zone. Doesn’t matter if you can keep up with the guy if he can outjump you by 6 inches for the ball.

It’s just another wrinkle in the offense: We had lots of speed before, but now we can roll out the tall guys in the red zone and say “Hey, do you have multiple defensive backs who can both keep up with our speedsters AND be able to defend high throws to humongous recievers/tight ends who are all good at high-pointing the ball? No? Well, you’re fucked”. Then once Sammy Watkins comes back you have someone who can do both very well….Yikes. And the worst that’ll happen is KB sucks and we wasted a whole 180k signing him. Low risk with a high ceiling.

severn58
severn58
Reply to  ChiefOfTheWolfpack
12/08/2018 11:24 am

Yeah, and with the extremely low amount invested in him, why the fuck not do it? The fake outrage I’ve seen on Twitter is hilarious, worst case scenario we got some decent weight jokes out of it and move on.

Team Player
Team Player
Reply to  severn58
12/08/2018 11:25 am

Stole my thunder on the pre-broken finger-DBowe comparison

severn58
severn58
Reply to  Team Player
12/08/2018 11:27 am

I’m just here to take your thunder and downvotes

Team Player
Team Player
Reply to  severn58
12/08/2018 11:29 am

Upvote for the downvote

Chiefsfan115
Chiefsfan115
Reply to  Team Player
12/08/2018 4:07 pm

Dwayne “I’m not making the catch because I could get hurt” Bowe. Man, there were some games where his lack of effort really made my face red.

ChiefOfTheWolfpack
ChiefOfTheWolfpack
12/08/2018 11:11 am

I like the signing. Cheap contract for a specialized player who can help us. He can be a solid possession receiver with his massive frame and catch radius. He gives Mahomes another red zone target as well. Kelce is a monster but he’s going to draw a crowd in the red zone; KB adds another size threat that defenses have to worry about.

We’ve been known for speed, but this gives the offense just a bit more versatility.

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