UPDATED 8:25 P.M.: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traded up three picks with the Oakland Raiders and drafted Illinois WR Arrelious Benn in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Benn provides the Bucs with a receiver that has a combination of some size and speed. The Bucs were in dire need of a receiver.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed one of the biggest needs on their roster with the selection of Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn. The Bucs traded a fifth-round pick (153 overall) to move up in the second round to the 39th overall pick that was held by the Oakland Raiders.
“We gave up a fifth [round pick] in this year’s draft to move up a few spots to get Arrelious,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said. “You go get your guy. We had some of these guys targeted. You go get your guy and we got him.”
The Bucs were looking for a receiver for second-year quarterback Josh Freeman to throw to. The Fighting Illini product Benn checks in at 6-foot-1, 219 pounds, and has a quality combination of size and speed. Among the wide receivers, Benn tied for the most reps of 225 pounds with 20. Benn's official 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine was a respectable 4.53.
“I didn’t know who was going to take me. It was like a rollercoaster and I wasn’t going to try and figure it out,” Benn said. “I’m excited. I’m pumped to come to Tampa and play with a guy like Josh Freeman. I’m ready to go, and I’ll do whatever I can to help the team.My impressions about [Freeman] are very good. He’s a guy that came in and had a good year, and we’re going to do a lot of good things together.”
Benn did run a 4.36 at his pro day and Morris said he can definitely stretch the field and make yards after catch.
“In college he had the ability to stretch the field with his size, his girth, his mass,” Morris said. “He’s a bigger-type receiver. Brandon Marshall didn’t run that well at the Combine. [Terrell Owens] didn’t run that well at the Combine, but they have bigger bodies and they are harder to defend down the field. They create separation with their body control.
“I love the fact that he can catch the ball and once he catches it, he’s tough to get on the ground. He’ll have some route development that we’ll look at with him. He’s had a lot of routes. He’s been at a bunch of different spots. He’s been inside so you’ve seen him run the jerk routes. You’ve seen him outside running the dig routes and the go balls.”
The Washington D.C. product Benn feels his run after the catch ability is one of his best strengths.
“It is real big, I’m a run after the catch guy,” said Benn. “I’m going to lower my shoulder into a cornerback when I get the ball. I’m excited to get in there and make plays.”
Benn has a lot of talent, physical tools, and upside as a pro receiver. He is physical and has no fear going across the middle of a defense. After the catch Benn has good quickness and does a good job of ripping off yards in chunks. He finishes his plays well and delivers blows to defenders.
Morris remembered Benn from back in 2006 when he tried to recruit him to Kansas State to play for quarterback Josh Freeman. He's excited that those two will finally have the chance to play together.
“When you turn on the tape and you watch Benn you see a guy that catches the football and then after he catches the football he’s tough to get on the ground,” Morris said. “You see a guy run after the catch. I had a lot of experience with Benn. My year at Kansas State, I had the chance to go out and try to recruit the young man. He was highly recruited. He was the number one – if not the number one, he was one of the top five wideouts coming out that year. All he did was go out to Illinois and produce as a freshman. He really produced as a sophomore and had big numbers. This year he produced, but not as much as he did when he was a sophomore. He lost his coordinator and he had a different quarterback. But all he’s done is caught a lot of balls and be very productive after he’s caught those balls and runs after the catch. It excites me to provide a playmaker to go along with our football team and Josh Freeman.”
Benn talked about getting to know Morris and Freeman while being recruited.
“It was good he worked his butt off to recruit me. He’s a great coach,” Benn said. “He recruited me when Josh was there. It is kind of a small renunion now. We’re going to be together and it was meant to be.”
In his three years at Illinois, Benn caught 159 passes for 2,221 yards (14 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. For the Fighting Illini, Benn was one of their most dynamic weapons so they got him the ball in a variety of ways outside of wide receiver. Benn ran the ball 62 times for 282 yards (4.5 yard average) and three touchdowns out of the Illinois spread offense.
He returned 42 kickoffs for 996 yards (23.7 yard average) and one touchdown. On punt returns Benn had 114 yards on 15 returns (7.6 yard average). His best season was his sophomore year when he caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards (15.7 yard average) and three touchdowns. Last season Benn was hampered by a sprained ankle and poor quarterback play. He caught 38 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns. In order to avoid another year that could hurt his draft stock Benn decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
“I didn’t have a quarterback,” Benn said about his last year at Illinois. “I went through three quarterbacks. I had a change at offensive coordinator and I didn’t have the right guys around me that I thought I needed to win.”
Benn is fifth on Illinois career receptions list (159), sixth in receiving yards (2,221), and fourth in all-purpose yards (3,163) in school history. Benn was an All-Big 10 2009 honorable mention, after being on the first-team All-Big 10 performer for the 2008 season. That year Benn was voted the team's MVP, and was a fourth-team All-American. Benn was the 2007 Big 10 Freshman of the Year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a huge need at wide receiver. The Bucs are looking for two new starters. Antonio Bryant signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. Starting flanker receiver Michael Clayton was a huge disappointment in 2009. Clayton is still a candidate to be released this offseason. The Bucs like what Sammie Stroughter did as a slot receiver last season, and expect him to have a bigger role in the offense in 2010. The Bucs will have some competition with veterans Reggie Brown, Mark Bradley, and holdover Maurice Stovall. Tampa Bay lacks a lot in the receiving department. The Bucs didn't have a burner that can get open deep downfield and is a threat to score when they touch the ball. The Bucs also didn't have a possession receiver that is a chain mover. Freeman badly needed a number one receiver, and perhaps Benn can be that in time.
“He fits in wherever you may need him,” Morris said of Benn. “You’ve seen him play the slot in college before, especially this year. He was featured as an outside receiver as a freshman. He has the ability to do all those things. Coming here you are talking about the void we have with Antonio at the X position. Naturally, you’ll start him off there.”
Benn said he expects to produce a lot, and given the team traded up for him, he believes they feel the same way.
“It said a lot," Benn said. "Their expectations are high. They wanted to get me in right away and start working."
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