Five minutes from the trade deadline in 2017, it appeared that all was safe to prepare for trick-or-treating with no major moves by the Buffalo Bills. But at 3:57 pm, the Bills and the Carolina Panthers finalized a trade that would bring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo. A former first-round pick of the Panthers in the 2014 NFL Draft, Benjamin was deemed expendable by Carolina as they collected a third- and seventh-round draft pick from the Bills.
Benjamin ended up playing in seven games (includes playoffs) for the Bills, but he was limited due to a knee injury. A lone touchdown and 236 yards were a major disappointment on a team in dire need of another play-maker. Despite that, Benjamin remains the number one receiver for Buffalo heading into 2018. With his health, a new quarterback, and a new offensive coordinator leading the way, Benjamin will hopefully become the impact receiver the front office expected him to be.
At 6’5,” Benjamin is essentially a lean tight end. He won’t be confused for Marquise Goodwin anytime soon, but he’s certainly not slow either. His respectable speed and large frame make for a gigantic target that can be used just about anywhere on the field. Raise your hand if you would have liked to see this pass head toward Benjamin. There’s another subtlety to this clip that needs to be pointed out. Benjamin tends to intimidate defensive backs. The shoulder dip Benjamin shows here forces Ken Crawley to back off. On the play before this one, Crawley didn’t move in time. It didn’t end well for him.
Remember that Kelvin Benjamin’s knee is hurt. He still makes a decent cut and maintains speed. Even more importantly, however, is that Benjamin uses his body to box out the defender. Defensive backs playing off of Benjamin with even a small cushion like that above often find themselves unable to blanket him due to his size and ability to use his body. Don’t tell any opponents this, but jamming him at the line impedes his acceleration quite a bit and was significantly more effective at disrupting his route. Once he’s moving, physics almost always favor Benjamin.
The cut isn’t too shabby at all, but again the highlight is Benjamin’s ability to box his man out. Benjamin is also a tough receiver to take down. Kiko Alonso is only a couple inches shorter than Benjamin and about a dozen pounds lighter. Despite that, Alonso bounces off Benjamin.
Stephon Gilmore’s blatant penalty barely disrupts Kelvin Benjamin’s route. At the top of the play you’ll see Benjamin’s signature move. For such a large receiver, he’s pretty good at sticking his foot in the ground and coming back to the ball. On this exact play, Benjamin needs to keep turning and extend to make the catch behind where he’d like it. In terms of “receiving” the football, there’s no area of Benjamin’s game where he looked “elite.” However, good agility and speed combine with solid route running to create a dangerous weapon on offense.
On a run-first team, blocking receivers are an added bonus. Marshon Lattimore might be glad that Benjamin was traded out of the NFC South after this. Benjamin only has one hand gripping Lattimore’s jersey and it still takes a tremendous effort to break free. The red outline (which arguably looks nicer than my usual circle) comes courtesy of my youngest daughter. Keep an eye out for these in future installments. It can be like a scavenger hunt!
If Marshon Lattimore is relieved that Kelvin Benjamin is no longer in his division, Xavien Howard definitely isn’t excited that Benjamin moved to his division instead. Benjamin moves Howard back a full ten yards before Howard can break free. Meanwhile, a lane opens up that would accommodate a tractor trailer.