The Carolina Panthers earned an impressive 12-4 record this season. The defense was dominant, the offense was good enough and the Panthers asserted themselves as a top NFC team. While they certainly made some positive strides this past season, some issues require mending.
The Panthers desperately need a solid No. 2 receiver across from veteran Steve Smith, and they should target a big-bodied vertical threat in the first round of the NFL draft. One name that stands out amongst most others is Kelvin Benjamin, the former Florida State Seminoles receiver.
Benjamin hauled in 54 passes in his sophomore season for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns—some of the best stats in the country. His 6'6", 220-pound frame makes him an ideal target in the red zone. Furthermore, his ability to catch jump balls is better than most, and it was on display in the national championship.
Benjamin does a tremendous job of using his long arms to reach the football at its highest point and pluck it out of the air. He also excels at locking his eyes on the ball while it's in the air and following it into his body.
He does need to polish up his route running, but that's a very fixable issue for a player with so much potential. His size and athleticism would add a whole new dimension to Carolina's offense, assisting both Smith and Cam Newton.
The Carolina quarterback took many steps forward in 2013 but would surely benefit from having more weapons. Benjamin is an ideal fit for any of the reasons explained above, but none more important than the fact that his ceiling is higher than most, as noted by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
That's the ceiling you draft with Kelvin Benjamin. Big redzone target you can throw it up too. Box-out artist.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 7, 2014
He was one of the most productive receivers in the country this past year and is still clearly very raw in some ways. Besides his unpolished route running, he occasionally lacks physicality at the point of attack.
For a guy his size, Benjamin should be bullying the smaller corners he faces—similar to what Brandon Marshall does. Both pass-catchers have great body control and size that is rarely matched.
The Panthers coaching staff could easily coach up Benjamin's flaws, turning him into a legitimate No. 2 receiver.
As Rotoworld notes, many have likened him to Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, largely because of their similarities in size and jumping ability. Carolina saw success when it paired a bigger receiver (the 6'2", 217-pound Muhsin Muhammad) with Smith, and Benjamin could help the veteran receiver by diverting some coverage from him.
The Panthers may become a pick-your-poison offense with the addition of Benjamin. Adding him into the mix with Smith and Greg Olsen is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator.
What's also great about Benjamin is his willingness to block on running plays, something that could help the already-potent rushing attack of Carolina.
Overall, Benjamin fits the bill for Carolina. His talent and potential make him worthy of a first-round pick, and he could turn out to be great.