The Carolina Panthers decided against reaching for an offensive tackle in the first round, and they gave the No. 1-type wide receiver Cam Newton desperately needs by drafting Florida State product Kelvin Benjamin. I wasn’t a fan of Benjamin’s in the pre-draft process and slapped a second-round grade on him, because he has poor hands (far too many concentration drops) and lacks polish as a route-runner. A boom-or-bust player, Benjamin is the kind of guy who will “boom” big-time with the right coaching and the right effort from him, and it looks like he’s in a great situation to make good on his talent with the Panthers organization.
Former solid NFL wideout Ricky Proehl has quickly become one of the elite position coaches in the league, and it seems like he can bring the best out of any wide receiver in this league. I mean, look at what he was able to do with Ted Ginn Jr. last year. Benjamin clearly lacks polish and is more explosive than fast, but he has a vast amount of potential. That potential made him a hot prospect at some points during the pre-draft process, with a few people even giving him lofty comparisons to Calvin Johnson when asked what Benjamin’s upside is.
Proehl certainly sounds excited to have Benjamin around, and he gave some effusive praise to the last WR he personally worked out during the pre-draft process. He said of the 6’5″ rookie, via ESPN NFL Nation’s David Newton, “A guy his size and the way he just caught the ball … just natural, just like a vacuum. I was in awe to be honest with you.”
Hopefully Benjamin can make a big impact as a rookie, and Proehl will also have to get the most out of guys like Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt. We know veterans Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery can move the chains, but they are limited in other facets. The Panthers will look to Benjamin to lead the WR corps with his athletic ability, and Proehl will also need to continue to develop wildcards King and McNutt, with King generating positive buzz this offseason.