Benjamin Introductory Press Conference Photos
Benjamin Centerpiece of Receiver Makeover
I t’s almost like Dave Gettleman had a plan. After tearing apart his team’s receiving corps at the start of free agency, the Panthers’ general manager continued to piece together a new group Thursday night. Gettleman added his biggest piece of the makeover by taking Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin with Carolina’s 28th pick in the NFL Draft.
And biggest is very much literal in this case.
“You can’t teach 6-5, 240 with a 34-inch arm length and 10-inch hands,” Gettleman said after selecting Benjamin. “This guy has unusual ball skills. He’s got what we call a very big strike zone.”
Benjamin exploded onto the national scene during his sophomore season with the Seminoles. He caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards with an ACC-leading 15 touchdowns. In January’s BCS title game against Auburn, he grabbed a national championship-winning 2-yard catch with 13 seconds left.
“I said, ‘you knew and everybody else in that stadium knew the ball was going to you and you were going to catch it,’” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera explained while describing a conversation he had with Benjamin during his pre-draft visit. “He said, ‘I wasn’t going to let the quarterback down.’ I loved that confidence. And I love the fact that he had his quarterback’s back.”
Benjamin should be a welcome addition for Cam Newton. Carolina’s fourth-year quarterback saw his top-four receivers from 2013 wind up elsewhere this offseason. The newest Panther has never met Newton, but he sees at least one comparision to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
“Just his will to compete and win — that’s something Jameis has,” Benjamin said on a conference call with Carolina media. “That’s something I love in a quarterback. I’ll go out and do anything for him.”
The Panthers have six picks remaining in the final six rounds, and they may not be done adding receivers. But even if they don’t take another, getting the team’s most important player a new weapon was vital.
“I’m sure that Cam’s not mad at me now,” Gettleman joked.
“My responsibility is to look at everything long term with a big lens. I can’t have tunnel vision and we can’t deal with check boxes. There is more that goes into it. We felt that it was going to be wide receiver heavy and we’d get a good young rookie receiver at some point in time.”
OTHER NOTES AND QUOTES
- Just like last year when defensive tackle Star Lotulelei fell to the Panthers in the first round, Gettleman wasted no time turning his pick in. “(Benjamin) was the highest-rated guy on our board. Just like last year, value matched need,” Gettleman said. He added that the Panthers didn’t receive any calls from teams looking to trade into the 28th spot, and he never considered moving up in the first round.
- Many draft experts had Benjamin rated behind USC’s Marqise Lee, who was also available when the Panthers were on the clock. Gettleman had a simple answer for why he went the way he did: “You can’t coach 6-5, 240. You can’t coach it, I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.”
- One of the biggest knocks on Benjamin is his route running. But it’s hard to find a rookie wideout that doesn’t have to work on that part of his game. “The only receiver in this draft whose route running you can’t question is Odell Beckham, Jr. We all have to learn,” Gettleman said. “Like I said to a reporter last year who was banging on one of our young players about how he hadn’t come along as quickly as he felt he should. I asked him to ‘pull out his first two years of articles that he wrote and tell me how many of them were Pulitzer Prize articles.’ Like anything else, he is going to have to learn. Through our vetting process, we have no doubt that he is capable.”
- While former Panthers’ receiver Brandon LaFell struggled with drops, he was the best blocking wideout on the team. But Rivera feels that’s something Benjamin can help replace: “Part of helping a running back or a quarterback in terms of their running ability is to help create a space for him. He has that kind of leverage and strength,” Rivera said. “There were a lot of good things in terms of not just his blocking and wanting to block, but the other awareness things that he did downfield. Understanding that if a quarterback is in trouble, how to find a crease and sit down and present that target when the quarterback when he is scrambling. That will be important, especially with Cam’s ability to stay mobile.”
- Some more quotes from Benjamin’s conference call – On possibly replacing Steve Smith: “I’m not looking at it like taking Steve Smith’s spot. I’m a big fan of Steve Smith. He is a great receiver in my book. I’m just coming in there to do something like he did. Come in be the best player like he was, come in and be the best player that I can be.” On why he watched the draft with family in Florida instead of going to New York: “I’m a real humble guy. I’m not really a red carpet type of guy. I keep to myself. I’m a big family guy and I just really wanted to be with my family. I didn’t want to choose certain people out of my family to take up there.” On when he became a fan of the Panthers: “When Cam got there. That’s who I played with on Madden. I was a big fan. I always dreamed of coming in there and playing with Cam and just coming in and contributing to the organization.”
BENJAMIN’S BREAKOUT SEASON
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