Best Available WRs this Draft Class

By Paul M. Banks

A rather thin group, I included the TEs here and forecasted where they might go.

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Fighting Illini All-Decade 1st Team Offense

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By Paul M. Banks & Paul Schmidt of  The Sports Bank and Joe Kutsunis of Hail to the Orange, “Home of the Blogging Illini”

For the 1st team defense and second teams click here

First team Offense

QB Kurt Kittner  – Though he only played two seasons this decade, Kittner deserves the nod here. He led the team to the Sugar Bowl and a Big Ten Championship in 2001, and did it without the benefit of a great running back corps (undersized Rocky Harvey and bulky Antoineo Harris the main contributors). With the passing game being the main focus of the offense, Kittner was still able to dissect opposing defenses.  Still, it was a close finish between him, Juice Williams and surprisingly Jon Beutjer (whose career stats are surprisingly impressive – like second all-time in Illini history for passing efficiency). Kittner’s overall winning record as a starter pushes him over the top.

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Is Arrelious Benn Jumping to the NFL?

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By Paul M. Banks

NFL Mock Drafts everywhere have University of Illinois junior wide receiver Arrelious “Rejus” Benn as a first round prospect. ESPN’s Draft Czar Mel Kiper rates Benn the #2 wideout in the nation on his list of NFL Draft WR prospects. So he’s certain to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft, right?

“That’s a decision I will probably make down the road, I’m not sure as to what I’m going to do,” Benn said following the final game of his junior season, a heart-breaking last second 53-52 loss to Fresno. Benn was arcane when probed by the media about his returning for his final year of eligibility: “It doesn’t matter when I go, the NFL is gonna be there. College is still here if I stay and get my degree…whatever I want to do.”

Benn finishes his career fourth in school history in receptions and all-purpose yards, and sixth in receiving yards. He has a first team all conference season, and a thousand yard year on his resume. So on the outside it seems like a no-brainer for him to go, right?

“Yeah…anyone would think that, but I’ve still got to think about it,” Benn replied. One factor Benn’s considering in his equation is his education, and he’s close to completing his degree . “I’m very close, since I graduated high school early to come here (and enroll in the spring and participate in spring practices).”

As most players will tell you, Benn says he stays away from looking at NFL Mock Drafts and NFL draft player and position rankings. “I don’t read it, because it’s placed by numbers. That stuff doesn’t really matter when it comes to being drafted. That’s just college football talk,” Benn said.

It might be safe to say that Benn’s draft stock was higher in August than it is now, as his team’s 3-9 record, the massive struggles the Illini had at the quarterback position (and sometimes in the offense overall) affecting his final season numbers and getting hurt a couple times might push him more towards pursuing that pro career.

“Injuries still happen, and I had small, minor injuries, but I still got in all the snaps in all the games that I could. That’s not something that I’m concerned about. That’s just football, and I expect that I’ve got the type of body that is durable for it.”

NFL scouts will indeed drool over Benn’s physical gifts, which are apparent on sight. And he should have an impressive combine; which would obviously send his stock back up. Another factor of interest is the NFL likely not having a salary cap next year. The collective bargaining agreement has expired, and unless they get a new one in place for 2010, player salaries, including those of draft picks, could skyrocket. So even in the unlikely event that Benn falls out of the first round, the NFL money may be too much to pass up.

In this game of “should I stay or should I go now?” (apologies to the Britpunk band The Clash) Benn also did not indicate which way he was leaning. “Nah, I’m not leaning toward any kind of way right now,” he said.

But either way, expect an answer by the holidays. “I’m finishing up finals, and after that I’ll probably make the decision. You know there’s a lot to think about, and I’ve got a supporting cast behind me, when I come up with a decision, I’m gonna do it.”

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