Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinoise
Weight: 219 pounds
40 time: 4.57
A former top recruit who possesses all of the tools that scouts look for in an elite receiver in the NFL, Arrelious Benn has a tremendous combination of pure talent and athleticism. A three-year starter for Illinois who made an impact right away as a true freshman, Benn caught 159 passes for 2,221 yards and seven touchdowns during his career with the Illini.
His statistics aren’t eye-opening, however that deals more with the lack of play at the quarterback position at Illinois than it does with anything that Benn did. Illinois also did a rather poor job of utilizing Benn; considering they had one of the top receivers in the country on their team, they didn’t get the ball into his hands anywhere near as many times as they should have.
A tall, strong receiver with the frame needed to develop into a star receiver in the NFL, Arrelious is a tough, physical receiver who can be a deep threat down the field for his team as well as make great cat-ches in traffic. He has quick, strong hands with the ability to snatch the ball out of the air before running away from a defense in the open field. He also offers very good speed as well as the long frame needed to be a large target in the passing game.
Arrelious has the versatility needed to line up outside as well as in the slot. Benn’s body control and ball skills are both fantastic, as he does a great job of adjusting to the ball when it’s in the air. He’s a strong, powerful runner after the catch; his vision and quickness in the open field are both fantastic for a player of his size.
At the Combine he proved how strong he is by tying for the most reps on the bench among all receivers with 20. In the run game, Arrelious is a solid blocker in the open field, and he’s likely one of the top run-blocking receivers in this year’s draft thanks to his size and strength. Benn is also an excellent returner, having recorded 998 kickoff return yards and 114 punt return yards during his three-year career with the Illini. Arrelious’ route running is good, but not great, and this is certainly one area of his game where he could stand to work on. He tends to get a bit lazy with some of his routes, which is something that he’ll need to shore up at the next level. Early on in his career at Illinois, Benn’s maturity was a question mark, however as he got older he began to mature and was considered one of the leaders of the team in 2009. I project that Benn will be drafted in the mid-to-late first round.
Arrelious Benn has all of the tools, talent, and skills needed to develop into a No. 1 receiver for a team in the NFL. He compares favorably to Baltimore Ravens’ receiver Anquan Boldin, however I think that Benn may offer more upside than Boldin has, or had when he was coming out of Florida State; he certainly is a more durable player than Boldin. The sky is the limit for Benn’s upside in the NFL; when you consider that he’ll have far better quarterback play in the NFL than he had at Illinois, I think that Benn may just be tapping into his unlimited potential.
Notes: He is nicknamed “Rejus,” which was given to him when he was younger to mimic his father's nickname. Arrelious was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and second-team Freshman All-American in 2007, first-team All-Big Ten in 2008, and honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2009. Coming out of high school in 2007, Benn was rated as the No. 5 receiver and No. 24 overall player in the country and the No. 2 player in the District of Columbia behind North Carolina’s Marvin Austin by Rivals.com.
The comparison to Boldin will open some eyes, which Benn might need after being under used at Illinois. While scouts need to project his NFL productivity since his college numbers, through no fault of his own, were subdued, he certainly has the skill set to fill just about any receiver role in the pros. Route-running is relatively learnable, and the fact that he’s a willing and adept downfield blocker will endear him to offensive coordinators and get him on the field quickly.
Benn’s size and skill set may allow him to emulate another aspect of Boldin’s game: the rare receiver who makes an immediate fantasy impact. Of the handful of wideouts who have broke from the gate early with big rookie seasons, one trait the vast majority of them have in common is prototypical NFL size: Randy Moss, Michael Clayton, Marques Colston. You may recall Boldin blowing up as a second-round pick, and Benn projects to go off the board in a similar area. Of course the team Benn lands with will have plenty to say about his immediate fantasy potential, but the skill set is there—and history appears to be on his side.