Fantasy football season is just around the corner, which means drafts have begun, mock drafts are in full effect, and degenerates everywhere are preparing for the season. Every year, there are a few rookies that have fantasy value, not just in dynasty leagues, but in redraft as well. Last year, we saw Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, and even guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins contribute in year one. Who will it be this year?
This is part five of a 32-part series, where one offensive rookie from each team will be analyzed, and their fantasy value will be determined. Each player’s ADP, college statistics, depth chart status, and more will be broken down, and a proper value will be placed on each player.
Without further ado, part five of Rookie Profiles. Meet Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers.
Weight: 240 pounds
Benjamin was the fifth receiver selected in the first round of this year’s draft, and the Carolina Panthers drafted him as the top target right away for Cam Newton. How do we know that? The rest of the Panthers receiving corps features names like Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood, and Marvin McNutt. Avant and Cotchery are just role players at this point in their careers (despite Cotchery’s double-digit touchdown performance last year) as both are 31 years of age or older. Underwood and Marvin McNutt are both projects, although Underwood has contributed a little bit during his career.
Benjamin will without question have every opportunity to earn the number one receiver job in Carolina, and he will not have much competition. Last year, Benjamin caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns for an average of 18.7 yards per catch. His production “issues” have been noted, as some other receivers with just one year of top production have struggled in the NFL. The thing is, none of those had the size or red zone ability that Benjamin has. Time and time again, Benjamin was able to high-point the ball perfectly in the end zone for a touchdown (including the deciding touchdown in the national championship game) and his ability after the catch was well documented against Florida. Benjamin has all the tools to succeed at the next level, and the more he works with pro coaches, the better he will be.
So far, Benjamin’s ADP is 111.1 as the 44th wide receiver drafted, which could be great value. If Benjamin is able to win the number one job (or even if not) he will still receive his fair share of targets. His size will be plenty to get him red zone looks, and scoring touchdowns will be huge for his value. Other players being selected at 111 are Rueben Randle, Cecil Shorts, Danny Amendola, and Kenny Stills, all of which do not have the upside that Benjamin has. If he is able to see the targets, double-digit touchdowns is his ceiling in year one, but it is tough for a rookie to have that kind of production right out of the gate.
At Florida State, he faced some top-tier cornerbacks, including one of the best in the country in Vernon Hargreaves III, and left all of them “in the dust.” Despite not having a terrific combine, he is still a fast player with an elite jumping ability, so his floor is a red zone monster, which is not a bad option on your team as a WR4 or even WR3 depending on your draft strategy.
If his ADP stays over 100, he will be a great value pick, simply because he will be given every opportunity to succeed in Carolina, especially in the red zone. How often can you select a wide receiver that is 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds? Not often, as that is tight end size. Keep that in mind, as today’s NFL involves a lot of moving personnel, which could lead to even more mismatches for the former Florida State standout. Draft Benjamin with confidence in the later rounds, but do not be afraid to buy his upside in the middle rounds if he strikes your interest.
Projection: 48 catches for 700 yards and seven touchdowns.
Statistics via College Football Reference, NFL.com, ProFootballFocus