The Case For Kelvin Benjamin
Before his wasted season due to a torn ACL he suffered at practice in August of 2015, Kelvin Benjamin had himself an unbelievable rookie season. In 2014, 1st Round draft pick, Kelvin Benjamin was a force to be reckoned with when he posted over 1,000 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns as Cam Newton’s number one target. Benjamin had to sit on the sidelines for the entire 2015 season and watch his team make it to the Super Bowl without him. He is back this year and is motivated more than ever to help his team get back to the Super Bowl and this time, win a championship with his help.
2014 Rookie Season
The Carolina Panthers had their best rookie wide receiver in franchise history on the field in 2014. Kelvin Benjamin quickly made himself a household name in the NFL and proved his worth of a 1st Round pick by the Carolina Panthers. He set 3 rookie franchise records in his 2014 season which consisted of; most catches (73), most receiving yards (1,008) becoming the 11th rookie wide receiver in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard season and most receiving touchdowns by a rookie with 9. He was targeted a staggering 146 times which equates to 9 targets per game!
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In the first game of his NFL career, Benjamin set the tone for what would be a record-breaking rookie season and had 6 receptions for 92 yards and yes, a touchdown. In September, he topped all rookie wideouts with 329 receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns with 3, and was second with 21 catches. As a result of his amazing September, he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.
Other Weapons to Open the Field for Benjamin
Last season, without Kelvin Benjamin, the targets went heavily to tight end, Greg Olsen (123). The top targets for the wide receiver position went to Ted Ginn Jr. (96). That is 50 targets less than what Benjamin had in his 2014 rookie season and 27 less than tight end, Greg Olsen. This season, there has been a lot of talk around wideout Devin Funchess possibly overtaking Benjamin’s role as the number one wide receiver. I’m not buying this at all. Last season, Funchess ranked 4th on the Carolina Panthers for receptions with 31, behind Greg Olsen (77), Ted Ginn Jr. (44), and Jerricho Cotchery (39). Funchess was only targeted 64 times and totaled 473 receiving yards, hardly number one wide receiver numbers. The 2014 first rounder, Kelvin Benjamin is locked in as the WR1 for this offense and isn’t going anywhere. The targets could decline slightly for Benjamin in 2016 but I expect the field to be spread with the talent surrounding him creating more big play opportunities which will lead to amazing fantasy point production.
Carolina Panthers Receiving Stats for 2015
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As you can see from the table above, none of the wide receivers had any numbers close to what Kelvin Benjamin provided their offense in 2014. When your tight end is your highest target option, has the most receptions and dominates the receiving yards category, you are missing your number one wide receiver. Kelvin Benjamin will take over again in 2016 in all of these categories and I still expect Greg Olsen to have similar numbers which will result in lesser targets for the rest of the wide receivers. There is no doubt in my mind that Kelvin Benjamin is the wide receiver to own on the Carolina Panthers and the numbers will back up my sentiments.
Cam Newton has rushed over 100 times in every season in his NFL career. Although this makes him dynamically dangerous to the opposing defenses, it also increases his odds of injury. The Carolina Panthers have done a great job adding weapons around Newton to help him scramble less with the ball. Don’t get me wrong, Cam will run a lot as he always does and that in itself will benefit Benjamin with opposing defenses expecting Newton to run the ball on any given play. With his favorite target back on the field, you can bet Benjamin will be a big part of the game plan to keep Cam Newton airing out the ball as opposed to running with it. Newton was the number one quarterback in fantasy football last season and is expecting to be the number one yet again in 2016. Kelvin Benjamin will reap the benefits of Cam Newton’s number one fantasy QB status this season as his easy, go-to option.
I feel this needs to be addressed quickly and put into perspective for anyone who has their doubts on Benjamin due to his drops in 2014. I know Kelvin Benjamin lead the league in drops in 2014, but he was a rookie and was targeted an amazing 146 times. He can afford 10 drops when he is targeted almost 150 times in a season. That being said, I’m sure Kelvin is looking to improve as an all-around player and has worked on his issues with drops this offseason.
Kelvin Benjamin is just 25 years old and he has monster size for the wide receiver position at 6’5, 245lbs. It’s a no brainer he was Newton’s number one option in 2014. I look for Benjamin to be targeted heavily in this high-powered offense. I’ll say it again, Benjamin helplessly sat on the sidelines for the entire 2015 season and watched as his team reached the Super Bowl without him and as they failed to convert that accomplishment into a championship. There is no doubt in my mind that Kelvin Benjamin is itching to get back on the field and prove to himself and his teammates that he was the missing key piece of the puzzle in 2015. Cam Newton’s favorite target is back and is looking to top his amazing rookie season. If you find Kelvin Benjamin in your grasp, do not let him go.