BEREA: Browns fans were in a collective outrage.
The second day of the NFL Draft came and went Friday, and still the Browns’ brain trust showed little intention of matching its fan base’s burning desire to bring a receiver into the fold during the second and third rounds.
Throughout Friday evening and into early Saturday morning, local radio lines were jammed with frustrated and angry season-ticket holders bemoaning the absence of a legitimate receiver to work with new first-round acquisition Brandon Weeden at quarterback.
But come the fourth round Saturday, the Browns finally addressed the perceived area of need — much to the relief of their fans — by selecting University of Miami receiver Travis Benjamin with their first pick (100th overall) of the day.
While Benjamin’s name might not jump right out to some of the nondraftniks, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder’s speed soon will.
In fact, Ohio State fans might recall that in 2010, it was the then-junior Benjamin who zipped by the Buckeyes’ special teams unit in what must have felt like a vapor trail en route to a 79-yard punt return.
“I know my speed and agility will help me get open on a defender,” said the Florida native, who tied for the second-fastest NFL Combine time in the 40-yard dash (4.36). “I’m so quick and elusive, I can run past any defender on the field.”
Benjamin, whose nickname is aptly “The Belle Glade Blur,” said his best 40 time is 4.26, which he clocked the summer before his junior season.
“We picked Travis because he’s an explosive guy,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He can really run. And when he gets downfield, he can really track the ball.”
Last season, Benjamin started nine games, hauling in 41 passes for 743 yards and three touchdowns to become one of just six players in Miami history to rack up more than 2,000 career receiving yards. He also finished with the third most all-purpose yards (3,874).
Fourteen receivers had come off the draft board before the Browns finally tabbed the diminutive Benjamin, who quickly admitted he was a bit surprised by receiving the Browns’ call.
“They were talking to me a lot during the process, but I didn’t think it would be this early,” he admitted.
But since it was, Benjamin was confident his stature would not prove to be an issue at the next level.
“Week in and week out [at Miami] we played top competition every week in the ACC, SEC and all around,” he said. “I am used to getting hit.”
In a pre-draft conference call, veteran draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said this about Benjamin: “He’s a flier, a great athlete who’s tremendously fast. And when you think about what he can do in the return game, [he can contribute early].”
That’s a good thing, considering the Browns can use Benjamin’s speed in more than one area.
While Shurmur said the plan is to throw Benjamin right into the receiver mix to compete early, there’s always a place for such speedy guys on special teams.
During the three-day draft, Shurmur, General Manager Tom Heckert and President Mike Holmgren all said they don’t believe the Browns’ current receiving corps is in much need of an upgrade.
“No one’s in a panic about how the draft went as far as receivers,” Holmgren said. “We will not drop the ball [the Browns led the league in dropped passes] like last year.”
That’s why Heckert didn’t put a premium on the receiver position in the early rounds, believing the presence of the strong-armed and accurate Weeden will help the group that’s already in the locker room mature.
Either way, Benjamin knows his elite speed will help him find a home on the team’s roster somewhere.
“Kick returner, punt returner, anything they need me to do, I’ll do it,” he said.