Carolina Panthers take Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin

The Charlotte ObserverMay 8, 2014 

NFL Draft Panthers Football

BOB LEVERONE — AP

— The Carolina Panthers got their wide receiver of the future.

The Panthers wrapped up an eventful offseason for their receiving corps Thursday when they drafted former Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick.

Despite picking late in the first round of a receiver-rich draft, the Panthers had a choice between Benjamin and Southern Cal wideout Marqise Lee.

But general manager Dave Gettleman wasted no time, quickly calling in the choice of Benjamin to the Panthers’ representatives in New York.

Benjamin celebrated with his family and friends in Florida.

Benjamin, 6-5 and 240 pounds, caught 54 passes last season for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, pulling down the game-winning score against Auburn in the BCS title game.

Benjamin isn’t a blazer (he ran the 40 in 4.61 seconds at the combine). But he has an 83-inch wingspan and immediately gives quarterback Cam Newton a big red-zone target.

Since the week in March when the Panthers lost their top four receivers from last season–cutting franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and seeing three other wideouts leave in free agency–signs seemed to point to Carolina taking a receiver in the first round.

Gettleman knew this draft was deep at receiver, and part of the reason Smith was released was management’s belief he would not be a good mentor to a young wideout.

Gettleman recently talked about the 2009 draft, when six receivers were taken in the first round. Gettleman at the time was the pro personnel director for the Giants, who took former North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks 29th overall in 2009.

Three wideouts were taken in the first 12 picks Thursday–Clemson’s Sammy Watkins (No. 4 to Buffalo), Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (No. 7 to Tampa Bay) and LSU’s Odell Beckham (No. 12 to Giants).

The Saints traded up from No. 27 to 20 to take Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks, who has been compared to Smith because of his quickness and short stature.

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