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Thoughts on Mel Kiper mocking wide receiver to Eagles in first round

Jan 17, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

kelvin benjamin

It’s never too early for a mock draft (it’s almost always too early for a mock draft)—especially when it’s Mel Kiper, Jr., the face of NFL Draft coverage. Needless to say, his first take on the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 22-overall selection probably raised a few eyebrows.

Despite the presence of DeSean Jackson and a clamoring to re-sign both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, ESPN’s Kiper has the Birds going wide receiver in the first round. The pick: Kelvin Benjamin, a 6’5”, 230-pound burner out of Florida St. Here’s his analysis from ESPN.com’s subscription Insider service, followed by some thoughts on the subject.

I’d consider this more of a “best player available” pick than an outright need, but Benjamin would fill a distinctive role for the Eagles. Riley Cooper has decent size, but doesn’t create separation with speed (and is a free agent), and DeSean Jackson is exceptionally quick still, but lacks a physical presence. Benjamin combines some of both, with a huge frame for a wide receiver at near 6-5 and a lean 230-plus pounds. He possesses not just speed, but a lot of change-of-direction burst. He can simply overwhelm defenders and make plays, and would be a nice weapon for Chip Kelly.

Another scouting report on Benjamin via CBSSports.com:

STRENGTHS: Near-tight end size (6-5, 235) with a ridiculously large wingspan, giving him a catching radius that is probably on-par with anyone at the NFL level. Shows the gliding speed and short-area quickness to create some separation and be a terror in jump-ball situations, especially in the red zone.

WEAKNESSES: Still developing as a route-runner.

Personally, I’m not at all surprised by this and believe wide receiver absolutely could be a priority in the first few rounds of the draft, certainly sometime before the process is over. Then again, I wouldn’t expect both Maclin and Cooper to be back next season—Cooper in particular.

The reality of the situation is the Eagles don’t have enough cap room to field three pricey receivers. I’m not sure any team does. If Cooper and Maclin sign contracts within current market value, they could have the potential to earn upwards of $5 and $6 million per year respectively, plus Jackson is scheduled to make $35 million total over the next three seasons.

Philadelphia already ranked second only to Washington in cap space allotted to wide receivers last year, before handing out raises to two receivers. It doesn’t make sense to shell out that kind of money with other needs and different players looking at extensions in upcoming years.

It’s far more reasonable to sign one then draft behind the talent that’s there. That’s what I would expect the Eagles to do. Not necessarily in the first round, mind you, but don’t rule it out, either.

Any time you have a thought or hear somebody say anything along the lines of, “I can’t see the Eagles drafting [Position X] in the first round,” remember these three words: best player available. General manager Howie Roseman claims the Birds will always go BPA from now on, citing the rotten 2011 draft class as an example of what happens when a team picks for need.

And when you look at the financial scenario presented above, wide receiver absolutely is going to be a need. Jackson probably won’t make waves this year, but his contract could become a bigger issue in future years. If Maclin returns, it’s likely to be on a short-term deal perhaps as little as one year. And Cooper, just has limited ability—sorry, I don’t understand the fascination.

As for Benjamin himself, he sounds like a great pick, but it’s too early to say who’s going to be there when the Eagles are on the board. The draft is in May this year, so there’s a lot left to shake out—yet is interesting to consider different avenues that deviate from most people believe are the club’s biggest needs.

>> 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 [ESPN Insider]

  1. yishmeister - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    I kind of expected this, some of these WRs like Benjamin and Evans (Aggies) are a perfect combination of Maclin and Cooper. Kiper’s reasoning is pretty much spot on.

    Kulp you have brought up Cooper’s lacking the ability to get open, which Maclin has but he lacks the Cooper’s size. So instead of spending mucho bucks on even one of these guys, why not spend an early rounder on one of these studs?

    Now i say all that, not clear on how may Safeties/DBs are available that are first round worthy in the draft. But we all know the value of a big FAST WR in this offense opposite DJax in this offense between the 20s and in the end zone for Foles, who loves big targets.

    Reply
  2. willh888 - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    That’s the guy I want all along, or that fella Watkins from Clemson who’s a lot smaller but still pretty talented. It’s simple really.. while a defensive pick seems like a logical choice, there’s little chance of getting through teams like San Fran or Seattle without adding a prime target like a 6 foot 6 top talent. Those D’s eat people alive. If you don’t add some big ol’ thunder on the outside, lightning fast guys like McCoy and DeSean won’t have room to operate against top defenses. You’re not going to turn the Birds D around with one pick, so maybe go for broke with Benjamin, add decent defenders in later rounds.. or FA.

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    • yishmeister - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      Watkins would be so awesome, but the dude is a Top 5 pick, and it would probably take RGIII type trade to get up there to pick him.

      Evans and Benjamin are definitely more realistic.

      Reply
      • willh888 - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        I wonder what makes a huge, fast, talented receiver fall to 22, but a short, fast, talented receiver a top 5. It’s interesting Benjamin’s only weakness is route running.. something I imagine he’ll learn pretty well in the pros. Maybe Watkins is a good fit for atlanta despite their defensive needs. Probably the scariest WR core on the planet

  3. red2gold - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Since free agency precedes the draft, smart teams fill obvious holes in free agency and, with limited exceptions, draft talent regardless of position (see Ertz, Zach). If you don’t so this, you can end up reaching badly, because you cannot control the draft board (see Jarrett, Jaiquawn). If the Birds take a WR in the first or second round, I am fine with that – but then they obviously have to prioritize the safety position and a couple of others through free agency.

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  4. David Breslin - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Awesome! I’ve been making the claim that the eagles are going to be looking to draft Kelvin Benjamin if he is still available at #22. The safety class this year is so thin up top that I only want to see them grab Ha-ha if he is still on the board in round 1 – otherwise there are a handful of big CBs or safeties you can grab in rounds 3-5 that are all about the same. The top notch pass rushers will be off the board by the time we pick as well. Howie’s philosophy is to grab the best player available, but I am sure they would skew a few draft positions if a position of need can be filled. Given that our big two positions will likely not have any close players to fill, I feel like Kelvin is the pick. Draft can’t get here soon enough.

    Also, I think the eagles re-sign Coop and I don’t think they will want to match what Maclin is going to be offered. There are plenty of teams around the league that are going to want a shot at him.

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  5. philasopher - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    If we drafted Benjamin I’d like to get a one year deal done with Maclin and see him and Jackson work one side with Benjamin and Ertz working the other half. Although mock drafts don’t make any sense prior to free agency.

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  6. Jason R. - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    If that dude’s available at #22 you have to take him, kinda exactly like Maclin was at #15(?).

    I think they need to re-sign Maclin because, as everyone pointed out, free agency is before the draft and you can’t be counting on getting someone in the draft because you never know.

    Is Maclin an RFA? Are they able to just let the market determine his value then match? It helps them from a $ standpoint that he was injured last year because I think he’d have flirted with the 1,000 yard mark in this offense.

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    • wil - Jan 17, 2014 at 7:00 PM

      I think cedric thornton is the only rfa

      Reply
  7. death from above - Jan 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Kiper is a cartoon. I wish I could meet the dude that draws him.
    The “best player” selection process of drafting is a myth. It implies that even if you have 4 good cornerbacks,and the best player is a cornerback ,when your pick comes up,you draft a cornerback,even though your need was D-Line.

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  8. wil - Jan 17, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    I would take this pick. I feel like reaching for a safety or pass rush would remind me too much of 2011 when we obviously picked for need. Would love if we could make a deal for dion jordan

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  9. Dan Camponovo - Jan 18, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    I’m a big fan of Benjamin. I know what I’m about to say is controversial, so I’ll preface it up front with a big ‘ol disclaimer — I AM NOT SAYING THEY ARE ANYWHERE NEAR EQUAL IN TALENT/HYPE/ABILITY. IF BENJAMIN FALLS TO 22, THERE WILL BE A REASON FOR IT. But his play style reminds me of Calvin Johnson. Obviously much, much worse (because who isn’t), but DJax and Maclin are both small-ish dudes (Jackson especially) — having a 6’5”, 235lb target can really open up some options in the passing game.

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  10. meankoalas - Jan 20, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    what would it take for the eagles to get jimmy graham? trade maclin and their 1st rounder?

    *drools*

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  11. Sc - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Production gets watkins way past benjamin.

    If they use dollars to sign a safety, then draft benjamin and let mac and cooper walk, thats ok.

    I will say though, there are other guys with tremendous size and production that could be had later. Benjamin could be julio jones…but he also could be mike williams.

    Reply

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