Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State.
The Carolina Panthers used the 28th pick of the draft to address the wide receiver position. While it was a need, the Panthers seemed geared at taking an offensive tackle due to the lack of attention paid to it during the offseason.
However, this draft class is deep at both offensive tackle and receiver, so general manager Dave Gettleman felt this was the best player available—his proverbial blue goose.
Benjamin became a late arrival on some mock drafts and despite his second-round ranking according to his CBS Sports scouting report, he impressed the Carolina brass enough to go in the first round. Benjamin was even considered a late second-round selection to the Panthers in some mock drafts.
His selection is huge because the Carolina receiving corps was decimated during the offseason after every receiver who caught a pass from Cam Newton signed somewhere else. The lone exception was Steve Smith, who was released and later signed with Baltimore.
Benjamin will provide a huge target for Newton and could be sought often on deep routes and during red zone situations. He will create a physical mismatch and his ridiculous wingspan will be an asset to a team that desperately needs a No. 1 receiver.
However, he could be a little faster and he will need to improve his ball-catching skills as he has a tendency to drop a few passes. The latter will be crucial to both his success and that of the Carolina offense as Newton has a tendency to overthrow receivers. Benjamin's height should negate a few of those errant throws.
Back in January, Bleacher Report's own Dilan Ames discussed why Benjamin was a solid pick for the Panthers. This is what he had to say about him at the beginning of the year:
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.
Of course, that was with the idea Steve Smith would be on the team. Now, with the veteran presence of Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, Benjamin will probably start out as the No. 2 receiver, but he will be counted on to develop into the team's top guy.
The hope for Benjamin is that he plays to his strengths and that is what is seen when he arrives in camp and steps out onto the field for his rookie season. He has a lot of upside and potential that his ability could make his pairing with Newton a beautiful and productive relationship.
Like Newton, Benjamin brings a championship pedigree to the team and with the talent beginning to take shape on the overall roster, the future in Carolina is looking very bright.
Welcome to the Carolina Panthers, Kelvin Benjamin!
Player information provided via NFL.com and Bleacher Report.
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