Honestly, I could have easily lived with the 4.56-second 40 time that Illinois wideout Arrelious Benn recorded at the NFL Combine. We knew coming in that he wasn’t an elite speed guy, although he was still able to make plays because of his combination of size, power and short-area quickness. And sure, he did put the ball on the ground during his combine workout and might have been a bit sloppy as a route runner. But on tape, the guy showcases the ability to consistently adjust to the football and has the body control to develop quickly into an NFL-caliber route runner.
However, after improving in just about every facet of his workout at Illinois’ pro day Wednesday, Benn, in my opinion, solidified himself as the nation’s second-best wide receiver prospect. He ran his 40 in 4.43, with some stopwatches clocking him in the sub-4.4 range (4.36/4.39). And he was said to look a lot more comfortable and crisp running routes in front of scouts this time around.
“I slipped on a speed-out route at the combine,” Benn told the National Football Post. “Where I'm from, it's a step route and it's hard to run around a cone. (Wednesday) I did what I normally do. Everything was more crisp, not that the combine was bad.”
And honestly, slipping happens when prospects are thrown into a new environment and asked to do something they haven’t done before. Does that mean they can’t? Absolutely not. It just means there might be a slight learning curve for them in that area at the next level. But when I watched tape of Benn from the past two seasons, wondering if he’ll develop into an NFL-caliber route runner was among the least of my concerns.
So what does a workout like this do for Benn?
Well, it proves he runs a lot better than most people gave him credit for and that if put into the right system, I think he has the ability to become a playmaking wideout in the NFL. Does the 4.43 40 time he posted at his pro day automatically make me think he’s a legitimate vertical threat in the NFL? Not really, but it does prove he has more than enough speed to drive defenders off the ball and produce space underneath to create after the catch, something he does as well as any wideout in the draft. Plus, it also proves he has the necessary gears needed to run by opposing corners if they decide to sit on his routes.
The point of all this is to say I still don’t believe Benn is a pure 4.3 guy, but he really doesn’t need to be. He’s a much better straight-line athlete than given credit for, and when you pair that with his size, power and body control, he has the ability to mature into a productive starting wideout in the NFL very quickly.
And if I had to choose which rookie receiver would have the biggest impact next season, my money would be on Benn because of his ability to separate for himself underneath and create after the catch.
Benn really does have some Anquan Boldin qualities to his game and in my opinion is one of, if not the safest wideout prospect in this year’s draft. He’s a guy whose physical game translates well at the next level, and I wouldn’t have any problems drafting him in the mid/late portions of round one if I need a physical wide receiver.
Follow me on Twitter: @WesBunting
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