Panthers select Benjamin with 28th pick in NFL Draft
The Carolina Panthers solidified a large void at wide receiver by selecting one of the largest targets available at Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft.
The Panthers chose Florida State redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick.
“His size, his catch radius is phenomenal," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera of Benjamin. "He’s got a high ceiling.”
General Manager Dave Gettleman was pleased with his team's selection.
"Like last year, value met need," Gettleman said. “You can’t coach 6-5, 240. He’s got a lot of upside.”
The Panthers currently have zero wide receivers on their roster who recorded a catch last season, losing Ted Ginn (Arizona), Brandon LaFell (New England) and Domenik Hixon (Chicago) to free agency.
Carolina also cut veteran wideout Steve Smith — the franchise's all-time leading receiver. Smith later signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
Benjamin didn't attend the draft in New York, instead staying with family in his hometown of Belle Glade, Fla.
"I'm a real humble guy. Not a red-carpet type of guy," Benjamin said.
At 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, Benjamin pairs with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (6-5, 245 pounds) for possibly the largest quarterback-receiver combination in the National Football League.
“There’s no limit," Benjamin said of what he and Newton can do together in the NFL. "We’ve just got to get that connection down and work as a team and grind together."
After redshirting in 2011, Benjamin caught 30 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns during his freshman season in 2012.
This past season as a redshirt sophomore, Benjamin recorded an FSU-record 15 touchdown catches, including the game-winning score in the Seminoles' National Championship victory against Auburn in January.
He finished the season with 54 catches for 1,011 yards, earning All-ACC second team honors.
Benjamin is added to a new mix of wideouts for the Panthers, which includes free agent signings Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.
While very young, Benjamin is excited to start his NFL career and help the Panthers in any way he can.
"I have a lot of improving to do," he said. "I have a lot to learn."