The national champion Florida State Seminoles waited all night long to see if someone in garnet and gold would go in Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft.
Alas, the Carolina Panthers answered the call — drafting receiver Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th pick.
A big 6-5, 240-pound pass catcher from Belle Glades, Fla. who had the game-winning touchdown catch in the national championship win over Auburn, Benjamin was thought to be in play for the Eagles with the 22nd pick and the Chiefs at No. 23. But he fell to Carolina where he will be paired with Cam Newton and a playoff team from 2013.
“We’ve talked about what they need to get Cam Newton. Now you give him a guy where the area code is where you can throw the football,” said Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin and analyst during NFL Network’s broadcast. “He’s a big kid who knows how to get down load. Reminds me a lot of Brandon Marshall. This could be one of the biggest steals of the draft because this kid raw and has a lot upside.”
FSU, which had a school-record 11 players taken last year including three in the first round, avoided becoming the first program since Ohio State in 2002 to win the national title and not have a player taken in the first round of the ensuing draft.
The Seminoles had two players most experts pegged as potential first rounders — defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was the other.
But the Bears and Cowboys, with the 14th and 16th picks respectively and a need for defensive tackle, passed on Jernigan. The 6-2, 292-pound run stopper, who had 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season, was one of 10 players who reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL combine. FSU linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones also failed the drug test.
Odds are Friday is going to be a very busy day for the Seminoles at the draft. Aside from Jernigan, former St. Thomas Aquinas standout Lamarcus Joyner, safety Terrence Brooks, running back Devonta Freeman and center Bryan Stork could all come off the board Friday along with Smith and Jones.
ESPN draft insiders Todd McShay and Mel Kiper projected Joyner to go 40th overall to the Vikings, first among Seminoles players to be taken.
NFL analyst Mike Mayock said of Benjamin: “One of the things scouts and coaches worry about are wide receivers with only one year of college production. The question is always ‘Why if the guy is so special didn’t he have that production?’ I think this Benjamin kid is different. I think he’s special because of his size.”