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Benjamin among Browns rookies vying for playing time

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Posted May 16, 2012 @ 3:57 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Just like a season ago, the Browns could lean heavily on their rookie class.

RB Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick, figures to be an immediate starter. QB Brandon Weeden, the club’s other first-round pick, will vie to start right off the bat, too, as will ORT Mitchell Schwartz, a second-rounder. Also, the injury to DT Phil Taylor could give third-rounder John Hughes and sixth-rounder Billy Winn a chance to quickly contribute.

Another rookie to watch is WR Travis Benjamin, a fourth-round pick from Miami (Fla.). At the club’s recent rookie minicamp, head coach Pat Shurmur said he expects Benjamin to vie for playing time on offense.

“I saw a lot of good stuff from Travis this weekend and I feel like he will only continue to get better,” Shurmur said on May 13.

Benjamin was the only wide receiver added by the Browns in the offseason. Second-year pro Greg Little seems to be a lock to start at one outside WR spot, but there is no clear second option at the position, and the Browns need more consistency and big-play ability at the position.

In an interview with PFW on May 15, Benjamin said that the club hadn’t given him any indication about his role in the offense; his focus at the minicamp was learning the scheme, which he said had some similarities to the one the Hurricanes ran. He primarily played the outside WR spots at rookie camp, though he also saw a little work inside.

“It went good,” Benjamin said of rookie camp.

The 5-10, 175-pound Benjamin has exceptional speed; at Miami, he broke Santana Moss’ track records in the 60- and 100-meter dashes. However, he's not a track athlete attempting to make it on the gridiron — he started running track only in his junior year in high school; football was his focus.

“I knew track was going to get me in better shape for football,” he said.

Rare speed alone is no guarantee for NFL success. Benjamin, who caught 131 passes in four seasons at Miami, will need to master other parts of the game to succeed. He also will have to consistently catch the ball. Benjamin believes his hands are a strength, which is backed up by personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki’s scouting report in PFW's 2012 Draft Preview (though “concentration drops” are listed as a weakness, and he reportedly struggled with a few drops early in camp).

Benjamin came away impressed with Weeden, the 28-year-old former minor-league baseball player.

“He has a certain touch on the ball,” said Benjamin, who noted Weeden’s arm strength. “… It’s the same touch every time.”

Weeden also showed a good rapport with his teammates while also commanding the huddle, Benjamin said. When it’s time to work, Benjamin said, “Everybody knows it’s strictly business.”

Such seriousness can’t hurt the Browns’ rookie class, for which much could be expected early.

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