Kelvin Benjamin's Full Rookie Season Projections with Carolina Panthers

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVMay 9, 2014

WINSTON SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 09:  Kelvin Benjamin #1 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at BB&T Field on November 9, 2013 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers needed a wide receiver badly heading into Thursday's 2014 NFL draft, and they got one in Kelvin Benjamin with the No. 28 overall selection. 

A former Florida State standout, Benjamin stands a tall 6'5" and takes up more than 240 pounds. His late touchdown catch against Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game gave the Seminoles their first title since 1999. 

NFL on CBS captured Benjamin's selection:

Some prospects come into the NFL as game-ready while others are a work in progress, but there's no doubt that Benjamin's success in the league will hinge on one word.


Despite coming in at 23 years of age, Benjamin arrives in Carolina as a very raw player with plenty of development left to do. Questions surrounding his route running, pass drops and his dependency on only running plays emerged from the end of the college football season up until draft day, making him more of a project than an immediate impact. 

A player destined for the middle of the first round was being projected as a Day 2 pick after he was deemed as a one-trick pony of sorts and a player needing a few years of development. After all, rookie wide receivers traditionally have enough trouble adapting to the NFL as it is. 

In some situations this wouldn't be a factor, but the Panthers are expecting him to develop on the fly and take up a big responsibility off the bat. ESPN's Chris Mortensen notes why there's such an immediate need for wideouts in Carolina:

Offseason additions Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood give the revamped receiving corps some experience, but some promising young talent on the outside is needed to complement budding star Cam Newton

The Panthers may have most of their receiving corps gone from 2013, but they still have one key cog in the passing game that ESPN's Joe Schad was quick to pair up with the new rook: 

Catching passes from Jameis Winston in 2013, Benjamin put up huge numbers with the Seminoles. He totaled 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

However, his versatility comes into question with those very numbers. Averaging nearly 18 yards per catch for his college career, and nearly 19 in 2013, further proves the notion that he's dependable largely in the deep-ball category and not much else.

That could be conundrum for Carolina in play-calling when it could have gone with a more complete package at wideout. 

But as Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde added, you just can't teach freakish size, and it certainly has its perks in the passing game:

There's no doubt that Benjamin's size and skill set translate to the next level. The uncertainty surrounding him is simply whether he'll develop into a No. 1 wideout or simply a goal-line target and deep-ball specialist. 

Newton is turning into one of the NFL's best passers as he heads into his fourth season, and the Panthers are quickly turning into a Super Bowl contender. That bodes well for Benjamin, as not many wideouts walk into a lot of playing time along with a great quarterback all in one. 

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

If Carolina can acknowledge Benjamin's one-trick-pony reality off the bat and add some more weapons to take pressure off him, he should thrive. If the Panthers assume he'll be more like Dez Bryant than Plaxico Burress, he won't reach his full potential and may fizzle out quickly. 

Benjamin's size and abilities will make him lethal in the red zone, spiking his touchdown numbers. But with him still being very raw and a work in progress, the ceiling can't be too high. 

Expect anywhere around 30 catches for 300 yards and seven touchdowns for Benjamin in his rookie campaign. Development may keep him off the field some, but the lack of able bodies outside makes him a shoe-in for plenty of red-zone targets and plenty of deep-ball attempts. 

The jury is still out on whether the Panthers can get the best out of Kelvin Benjamin, but given the situation he's arriving into and his skill set, he'll rack up some decent stats either way.