Benjamin: I can be Panthers No. 1 WR 'in due time'
Kelvin Benjamin is confident he can become the Carolina Panthers' new No. 1 receiver.
He's just isn't sure how long it will take.
"I think I can in due time," said a humble and soft-spoken Benjamin during an introductory press conference Friday at the team's stadium.
But the 28th overall pick in the NFL draft was quick to add, "I have to put the work in — and that's what I plan on doing."
Benjamin has big shoes to fill.
The Panthers recently parted ways with Steve Smith, the team's go-to receiver for the better part of 13 seasons. Smith holds franchise records in just about every receiving category including receptions, yards receiving and touchdowns.
The Florida State receiver said the key to taking the next step will be improving his route running, specifically "getting in and out of my breaks on curl routes and comeback routes."
Benjamin brings a team-first approach to Carolina, something that impressed coach Ron Rivera from his first meeting with the 6-foot-5, 241-pound receiver.
But it was Benjamin's size and "catching radius" that won Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman over and convinced them to draft a receiver in the first round for the first time since 1997.
Benjamin arrived in Charlotte plenty motivated.
"I was hoping I could start practicing when I got here today," he said.
Benjamin said he's a more mature person than he was just two years ago when he caught 30 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman for the Seminoles.
He called the season "embarrassing" and vowed to work harder and improve as a sophomore.
He did just that, coming out of nowhere to catch 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, including the winning catch from Jameis Winston to beat Auburn in the BCS national championship.
The Panthers aren't worried Benjamin is a one-hit wonder.
Gettleman knows it may not happen right away with Benjamin, saying receivers often take longer to adjust in the NFL.
"The biggest thing when you draft a kid in the first round, once you've decided and assessed that he has the physical qualities to play, the next thing you have to assess is 'Is it going to be too big for him and how quickly (and) is he going to acclimate?'" Gettleman said. "We don't feel it's going to be too big for him and like any other rookie it's going to be a process."
Whether he'll come close to being as good as Smith remains to be seen.
But Gettleman said there's no looking back.
"My responsibility is to look at everything long term with a big lens," Gettleman said of Smith's release. "I can't have tunnel vision. ... We felt that it was going to be wide receiver heavy and we'd get a good young rookie receiver at some point in time."