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Panthers draft a huge target for Cam Newton

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 09 2014 02:01:44 AM CDT
Updated On: May 09 2014 02:01:45 AM CDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It is almost as if Dave Gettleman had a plan.

After tearing apart his team's receiving corps at the start of free agency, the Carolina Panthers' general manager continued to piece together a new group Thursday night. Gettleman added his biggest piece of the makeover by taking Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

"He was the highest-rated guy on our board," Gettleman said. "Just like last year, value matched need.

"You can't catch 6-foot-5, 240 (pounds) with a 34-inch arm length and 10-inch hands. This guy has unusual ball skills. He's got what we call a very big strike zone."

Benjamin exploded onto the national scene last year during his sophomore season with the Seminoles. He caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards with an Atlantic Coast Conference-leading 15 touchdowns. In the BCS title game against Auburn, he grabbed a national championship-winning 2-yard catch with 13 seconds left.

"I said, 'You knew and everybody else in that stadium (knew) the ball was going to you, and you were going to catch it,'" Panthers coach Ron Rivera said while describing a conversation he had with Benjamin during the receiver's pre-draft visit. "He said, 'I wasn't going to let the quarterback down.' I loved that confidence. And I love the fact that he had his quarterback's back."

Benjamin should be a welcome addition for Cam Newton. Carolina's fourth-year quarterback saw his top four receivers from last year -- Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon -- depart this offseason.

The newest Panther has never met Newton, but he sees at least one comparison to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

"Just his will to compete and win -- that's something Jameis has," Benjamin said on a conference call with Carolina media. "That's something I love in a quarterback. I'll go out and do anything for him."

The Panthers have six picks remaining in the final six rounds, and they may not be done adding receivers. However, even if they don't get another, getting a big weapon to assist the team's most important player was vital.

"I'm sure that Cam's not mad at me now," Gettleman joked.

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