How big of a loss is Kelvin Benjamin?
The Carolina Panthers are dealing with the loss of star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, after news came out Wednesday afternoon that his knee injury was in fact a torn ACL. How big of a loss is it for Carolina?
The second-year wide receiver is the epitome of a high-risk/high-reward player, as he’ll make spectacular catches and then follow them up with drops on easy passes, but his on-field impact is potentially a huge loss for the Carolina offense.
When Benjamin was drafted, the jokes among PFF analysts centered on the idea that Carolina found the biggest receiver it could find in order to help with quarterback Cam Newton’s penchant for overthrowing receivers. The pick worked out for the most part in 2014, as Benjamin made a number of difficult catches, turning overthrows into completions and picking up 11 touchdowns to go with his 1,116 yards (including the playoffs).
Benjamin also dropped 12 passes and had some questionable route-running, often put the ball in harm’s way when he didn’t finish a route or ran the wrong one entirely.
So there is certainly risk/reward to his game, but the positives outweigh the bad for Benjamin because he’s such a mismatch for opposing defenses.
Where do the Panthers go from here? They drafted WR Devin Funchess out of Michigan, and he’s largely a similar player to Benjamin. But two big receivers are certainly better than one, and a Benjamin injury really hurts the Panthers’ depth and ability to create mismatches. They’ll need another receiver to step up among the likes of Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn — none of which inspired confidence with their respective performances last year.
A year after Newton received as little help from his receivers as any quarterback in the league, it may be a repeat performance for the Carolina passing game with its best receiver out of the lineup.