Mike Evans Vs. Kelvin Benjamin: Is Either The Next Megatron?
By Bill Lund
Ever since Calvin Johnson burst onto the NFL scene in 2007, every scout and GM across the league has searched high and low for a playmaker who can create mismatches like he does. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Megatron has been the dominant player at his position, the one all others are compared too.
Two prospects in this year's draft class -- Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State and Mike Evans of Texas A&M -- have a chance to develop into the big-play threat teams desire. The two monster receivers had breakout years and chose to forgo their last two years of eligibility to enter the 2014 draft. The potential to become an elite NFL talent is apparent, but each of these gifted playmakers has some deficiencies to iron out. Benjamin and Evans are first-round prospects, but which one is the better player now, and who has the better chance to develop for the long haul?
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Evans (6-5, 231) was impressive during the Combine. He ran a solid 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash and showed good lower body explosion with a 37-inch vertical leap. Throughout the year, Evans was Johnny Manziel’s go-to receiver.
Evans does a tremendous job in establishing body position and creating separation to win jump balls. His tremendous catch radius and ability the snare a ball out the air makes him a promising red zone threat. He does a great job of tracking the throw in flight and going after balls rather than waiting for them to come to him. He is a load to tackle after the catch and can get the tough yards when needed.
He also shows the ability to separate after the catch, when he can open up and stride out. He does need work on developing release moves against stronger press corners. Evans' route-running also needs work, as most of his routes were verticals and posts with the occasional screen play. He hasn’t shown the ability to separate off breaks from quicker defenders. His new team will need to develop his route-running skills as he becomes more accustomed to an NFL offense.
A number of his big plays on the year were scramble plays where he was able to break deep and Manziel found him on the fly. A solid blocker in the run game, Evans does a good job in positioning himself between the ball carrier and the defender.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Benjamin was able to utilize his 6-5, 240-pound frame to be the go-to receiver for the Seminoles in 2013. Benjamin broke the Noles' single-season touchdown record (15) and grabbed the game-winning TD in the BCS Championship game.
Benjamin has the ability to extend and make some ridiculous high point catches. His body control and ability to adjust in the air makes any ball thrown in his vicinity catchable. His larger frame makes it easy to body defenders in the red zone and create space for him to work. He can be a punishing runner after the catch, plowing through smaller DBs for extra yardage.
Benjamin runs solid routes, but he could be a bit more explosive out of the break. He has shown some versatility, aligning in the slot at times to create mismatches. His biggest drawback is his lack of top end speed, with a pedestrian 4.61 40 at the Combine. Benjamin does lose focus on routine catches from time to time and drops well-placed balls.
In the run game, Benjamin has been used as a blocker against defensive ends off the edge, but he needs work on developing better sustainability in his downfield blocking. Benjamin is a bit rawer in his development than Evans, but he shows some understanding and versatility in the pass game.
Who’s the Better Pro Prospect?
Evans may be more NFL-ready now, with his speed and refined ball skills. But Benjamin has a greater upside to develop into a more consistent threat. Benjamin has more experience in a pro-style route tree, and despite the fact he needs to develop technically in his route running, his understanding and versatility will help him mature into a more long-term threat.
One of the interesting things about Benjamin is that while he may not have the timed speed, he possesses game speed. He can separate and run away from defenders after the catch and plays as fast as Evans does, despite the differences in their timed 40s.
Evans is a top-notch prospect, but Benjamin is an ascending talent that may prove to have a better career over time.