When the Roger Goodell announced, “… the Carolina Panthers select WR …”, many experts were guessing the next two words would be, “Marqise Lee.” But instead, they were, “Kelvin Benjamin“. Many do not like that Benjamin lacks experience, and is more “developmental”; but unlike many other analysts, I actually really liked Benjamin. I just hate his situation.
He’s got the height of Calvin Johnson at 6-foot-5 and adds over 60 inches extra with his vertical jump and arm length. He also has the build of a TE, coming in at a muscular 240 pounds. He’s great at separation and can be a great mismatch with linebackers and defensive backs alike. He possesses some great raw talent and I can really jump behind that.
In fact, had he gone to the New York Giants, instead of Odell Beckham, I would say Benjamin is in store for a possible top-20 WR season. But he’s not — he’s in Carolina.
The Panthers have been growing slowly but surely and after their 14-2 season last year, they seem like they’ve found their groove. That groove entails dialing back the offense and focusing on defense, and there’s no sign of changing that.
When Cam Newton first arrived, the Panthers were incredibly pass happy. Newton chucked the pigskin downfield 517 times in his rookie season. While that lead him to a Pro Bowl, Carolina decided to dial back a little bit on their signal caller giving him only 485 passes.
In 2013, his attempts once again dipped down to 473 and having a career high completion percentage of 61.7 percent. So why would they change this pattern? I really see Newton going down to about 450 passes as he’s becoming more efficient. But what does that mean for Benjamin? It means that the less pass attempts there are, the less looks he will receive based on averages. Not only has Newton been seeing less pass attempts, but he’s been using those fewer tries to give more to certain players.
In his rookie effort, Newton didn’t look for his tight end that much, but he’s really clicked with Greg Olsen in the past two seasons making him his most targeted receiver. His second-most targeted teammate is now with the Baltimore Ravens, but to replace him is Brandon LaFell. Only once in Newton’s career has he given over 40 receptions to four receivers, that being his rookie season.
Since his decline in passes, he’s only tossed the rock over 40 times to three targets. Those targets will be Olsen, Lafell, and Benjamin, the latter getting just over that amount.
Now, it all depends on how well Benjamin handles the rock, but with roughly 40 snags, he’ll be looking at 600 yards and four touchdowns, similar to LaFell’s production in years’ past. That means he’ll be in the range of about 84 points in the season, somewhere outside of the top 50 receivers.
But for fun’s sake, let’s assume he keeps that 18.7 yard/reception average he held at Florida State for one season. He’d be hovering around 750 yards and five TD. That’d place him somewhere near the 35th-ranked WR this season. However, since Carolina has focused on becoming a more short yardage based team, I don’t see his average being near his collegiate level stats imply.
So, unless he and Newton do some individual workouts together and really click, making him his “go-to man”, I really don’t see Benjamin getting enough looks to garner any attention in the fantasy world.