Buc fans have been clamoring for more information on our newest offensive weapon, Arrelious 'Rejus' Benn, and I'm going to try to give you some. As most of you know the Buccaneers obtained Benn by trading away their 41st overall and 5th round pick to move up two spots to draft Benn at #39 overall. Although the fact that this move has been questioned by some, few are likely to complain about the results once Benn hits the field this Fall. Benn and fellow rookie Mike Williams were selected to augment and revamp a much maligned receiving corp, and I've got to give credit to GM Mark Dominik. He seems to have made a great decision.
Arrelious Benn was the 2nd highest WR recruit in the United States coming out of Dunbar High School in our nation's capital, Washington D.C. Benn chose to stay close to home by attending the University of Illinois, spurning offers from more recognized programs such as: Florida State, University of Miami, and Notre Dame. His career at Illinois started off with a bang and he was named the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the year after catching 54 balls for 676 yards and two scores.
Benn did not suffer from a sophomore slump as he led the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,055) in 2008. Going into his junior season at Illinois the man whose teammates affectionately referred to as Rejus was predicted to become a top ten pick in the NFL draft. But something went wrong in 2009. Benn's numbers plummeted dramatically during his junior year. He caught only 38 balls for a paltry 490 yards. Many blame the erratic play of Illini quarterback Juice Williams, but it was the same Juice Williams that had been throwing the ball in his successful 2008 campaign, and thus his draft stock dipped.
Read all about Rejus after the jump...
Benn's selection in the 2nd round was a surprise to many of us Bucs' fans because we were hoping for the selection of Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate. In hindsight I believe Mark Dominik made the correct selection. Benn has been billed by many as the next Anquan Boldin, and he will be a better weapon for a young quarterback than the smaller Tate would have been.
When you take a look at Benn's physical attributes there is nothing to not get excited about. The kid is a physical stud. Standing a statuesque 6'2 and 220 lbs, Benn is a physical force with a body that can take NFL punishment as well as dish it out. Benn led all WR's at the NFL Combine by putting up an amazing 20 reps on the bench press (or three less than fellow rookie and #3 overall pick DT Gerald McCoy). He has above average speed and great leaping ability to get up for balls thrown downfield, and his size makes him a valuable target underneath as well. Benn's greatest ability, however, happens after he catches the ball.
The kid has the reputation as a playmaker and his highlights, which you can view here, prove that he is capable of both breaking the initial tackle, and then making defenders miss with the ball in his hands. This is something this offense needs in spades. Benn averaged a respectable 14 yards per reception during his career at Illinois, and Buc fans everywhere should pray that he puts up similar numbers in pewter. By all accounts Benn was a huge hit and beloved by teammates at Illinois, so he should be a great locker room guy as well. He comes from a good family and made good grades throughout his career. It is doubtful that we will ever see Benn's name in the paper for any negative press during his career here in Tampa.
The only doubts I harbor about Benn is his habit of dropping the occasional "easy" ball. We already have He Whom Must Not Be Named doing enough of that around here. Benn also rarely found the end zone in college. Despite his reputation as a game breaker, he crossed the goal line only seven times in his three years at Illinois (as a WR, Benn also returned several kicks for TD's). I'm sure the lack of end zone visits had more to do with the system (or lack thereof) he played in, but still it is something to be wary of. Benn could also use some polish on his route running, but this is true of virtually every college receiver transitioning to the NFL.
Many suspect that Benn and fellow rookie Mike Williams will start at the receiver position at some point in 2009. Although I think this is a bit premature, Dominik certainly did not spend such a valuable pick on a player only to have them sitting on the bench. The rule of thumb that I have always heard is that it takes a WR about three years to fully transition their game to an NFL level, so if Benn struggles early let's remember to cut the man a little slack. He has a lot of weight on those broad shoulders. Good thing we picked a guy who is strong enough to carry it.