You can count Mel Kiper Jr. among the growing number of professional draft analysts who think the Eagles are targeting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.
But that doesn’t mean the longtime ESPN draft guru endorses the pick.
Kiper, on a conference call Wednesday, suggested that the Eagles would be reaching if they took the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Florida State receiver with the 22nd overall pick.
“There’s talk that he (Chip Kelly) wants a bigger receiver,” Kiper said. “If you want a bigger receiver, [it’s] Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State. I think he’s a little overrated coming out early as a third-year sophomore. That’s me.”
This is the same vibe given by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who last week said Benjamin is “someone to keep an eye on” at 22 for the Eagles but also said Benjamin is “a polarizing player.”
Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys personnel man who now works for NFL Media, reported earlier this month that Benjamin blew off an NFL coach who had traveled to Tallahassee to work him out, although Brandt also reported that Benjamin’s agent, Eugene Parker, denied that Benjamin skipped a workout.
Charles Davis, also of NFL Media, said scouts have questioned Benjamin’s weight given the poor track record of NFL receivers who have weighed in the neighborhood of 240 pounds.
Both Kiper and Jeremiah have the Eagles taking Benjamin in their latest mock drafts, with less than three weeks to go before the May 8 first round.
“I would think adding more size, if you add Kelvin Benjamin, now you've got Riley Cooper and then you throw Jeremy Maclin in the mix, now they're going to be able to move the ball in between the 20s,” Jeremiah said. “But you get down in the red zone you've got two guys you can throw the ball up to.”
The Eagles are widely believed to be targeting a receiver (or two) in this year’s draft after cutting DeSean Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl wideout and one of the NFL’s most explosive vertical weapons, and releasing veteran slot wideout Jason Avant.
Benjamin’s size makes him an ideal weapon for the red zone, an area where the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jackson struggled during his six seasons with the team. But Benjamin lacks top-flight speed and is considered a modest route runner.
Kiper seemed more impressed by Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer, whose stock has risen in the past few weeks and was one of 30 prospects invited to New York City to attend the draft.
Latimer, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver, isn’t as big or physical as Benjamin but caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns his senior season at Indiana.
Kiper also suggested that the Eagles could trade up to get Louisiana State receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who visited the Eagles on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex, or buck the trend of tall receivers and draft 5-foot-10, 189-pound wideout Brandin Cooks from Oregon State.
“If you want a big receiver, Cody Latimer from Indiana would be a guy to look at,” Kiper said. “If you want a guy who kind of has a Steve Smith look to him as a player, who works hard and does everything off the fild that you want, great kid, Brandin Cooks from Oregon State would be that guy.”