The Carolina Panthers got themselves into a pretty big pickle this offseason at the wide receiver position. With Steve Smith being released and Brandon LaFell heading off to the Patriots, Carolina was left without its top two receivers and not much leftover for Cam Newton to actually have someone to throw the ball to.
And with little cap space, things were looking pretty grim.
The Panthers signed Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, as well as Tiquan Underwood. Perhaps seeing something like this popping up, the scoured the waiver wires last season and wound up claiming receivers Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King at one point or another.
Needless to say, there wasn’t much to be overly excited about in terms of getting any big time playmakers if you’re the Panthers, so they figured they would dip into the draft pool and get one of the biggest, highest ceiling players this draft had to offer in Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
At 6’5″ 240 pounds, Benjamin is obviously not the fastest receiver ever but he is a guy who has a lot of raw talent and the ability to be a major mismatch in red zone and jump ball situations.
While Benjamin’s overall game is still very green, he possesses all the physical tools to be a dominant player in the NFL at some point if he works at it.
The Panthers were giddy about what they called Benjamin’s “strike zone” as a receiver with 10-inch hands and 34-inch arms. It’s going to be hard for Cam Newton to miss a guy like that. What Benjamin has to work on is getting himself open, running routes, and securing balls he should rather than letting the easy ones slip through his hands.
We’ve seen Benjamin make big catches in big games, such as his game-winning grab in the National Championship game vs. Auburn, but what the jury is still out on is whether or not this kid can translate his game to the NFL quickly enough. Even though Florida State had a deep group of offensive skill players, Benjamin’s first 1,000 yard receiving season didn’t come until this past year, and he was kind of slow to develop at the collegiate level.
Like I said, he’s still a work in progress.
That being said, the Panthers didn’t have much of a choice in this year’s draft, and Benjamin was obviously a player they had identified early on in the process as someone who could come in and help them. That was evident by the way they approached free agency and their wide receiver position in general.
This is a young player with a lot of potential, and the Panthers need him to realize it sooner rather than later.