CHRIS KEANE/Associated Press
With a secondary full of largely uninspiring talent, the Carolina Panthers can use any immediate source of help they can get in the defensive backfield. They might get that source, apparently, from cornerback Bene Benwikere, a fifth-round selection from San Jose State.
Going into spring workouts, one of the most solidified roles in the secondary seemed to be that of Charles Godfrey, who was a safety for the Panthers before suffering a torn Achilles last season. Benwikere, however, has made an immediate push for the job, according to multiple reports.
With Godfrey working his way back slowly from injury, “Benwikere took most of the reps at nickel corner in Godfrey’s absence and showed good ball-hawking skills” at Carolina’s OTAs, according to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer. Expecting him to make a run at taking that job away from Godfrey, ESPN.com’s David Newton said Benwikere stood out in offseason practices.
Ultimately, the battle could be determined by how well Godfrey returns from injury in training camp and the preseason; if he doesn’t play as well as he has in previous years, the job will be there for Benwikere to potentially seize.
While this year’s No. 148 overall pick has subpar length and speed for an outside cornerback, he is a good fit in slot coverage, where he can put his ball skills, instincts and short-area quickness to good use. He is an inconsistent tackler in run support, but he attacks the ball in the air and, like Godfrey, has experience playing safety.
Whether it be as the Panthers’ No. 3 cornerback, in dime packages and/or on special teams coverage units, Benwikere should make an immediate impact for Carolina, but he could be a quick fifth-round steal if he takes on a key defensive role in his rookie season.
All measurables courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.