One of the most surprising picks in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was the Carolina Panthers’ selection of Florida State sophomore Kelvin Benjamin 28th overall. Benjamin, who is 6-foot-5, received for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns his final season with the Seminoles, but the Panthers were dinged by several outlets for taking him in the first round – Pete Prisco graded the Panthers at a “D” for their draft, and SBNation.com gave Carolina a “C+.”
Their draft was puzzling to me. Why not a left tackle? Is Byron Bell the answer? Kelvin Benjamin is a big receiver, but I liked others more.
Following the mixed reviews, though, reports from Panthers camp have raved about Benjamin. And Panthers GM Dave Gettleman echoed the excitement of those reports Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“He’s talented, he has a good focus, he learns well, and it’s important to him – it’s really important to him,” Gettleman said. “A lot of people say, ‘Why didn’t you take Marqise Lee?’ And then people start banging on you about that he doesn’t run great routes. Well, I made the statement, as far as I’m concerned, the guy the Giants got, Odell Beckham, is the best route runner – the rest of them all need route work.”
Gettleman even went as far as to compare Benjamin to a former 1,000-yard receiver.
“You don’t wanna put undue pressure on a kid, but what we see from him, when I watched him, I thought I was watching a young Plaxico,” Gettleman said, referring to Plaxico Burress. “He’s a better athlete than people realize, he plays faster than a lot of people think, and he made some O-M-G catches in the rookie minicamp.”
As far as reported character issues, Gettleman was unconcerned.
“A lot of what we do is instinct, Ross, you know that,” Gettleman said to Ross Tucker. “I just felt very good about him as a person. He was very forthcoming about his background, his journey to where he is now. And we felt very strongly that a lot of those rumors were exactly what they were – they weren’t worth putting any stock in.”
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