Rookie wide receivers are boom or bust in fantasy football. While everyone is after famed 1998 Randy Moss season, it’s much more often an inconsistent and disappointing ride for owners who invest heavily in rookie WR. This season, though, there is some nice value to be had with the ADP (average draft position) of a few rookie WR including the Panthers first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin.
Coming off a National Championship at Florida State, Benjamin lands in a situation full of opportunity for him to make a fantasy relevant impact. The Pathers WR corps has been completely turned over this offseason with Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn Jr. all leaving the team. In response, the Panthers signed Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant to join Benjamin as they looked to get a new set of weapons for QB Cam Newton.
According to all the buzz out of Carolina camp, Newton has reached out to Kelvin Benjamin, and the two have formed a special bond being called things like “inseparable” and “big brother, little brother.” If Benjamin was buried on the depth chart, that may not mean much, but since he’s going to be on the field and usually a top option, expect Cam to throw the ball his way early and often this season.
Benjamin was known in college for his red zone presence, and at 6’5″ look for him to be one of Newton’s favorite options for jump balls in the end zone. This preseason, Benjamin does have one touchdown to go with his 12 catches for 173 yards. He shows all the sings of being ready to step in as the top receiving option for Carolina.
There are some reasons for concern. The Panthers offense has struggled as a whole this preseason, and Cam Newton is dealing with a rib injury going into the season. In addition, usually there is some inconsistency from rookie receivers especially early in the season. While Benjamin is dripping with potential, there’s a chance he’ll struggle at times as teams focus on covering him with their best corner or even double coverage since the Panthers lack other receiving options.
I would try not to draft Benjamin as a starter you are relying on every week. However, if you can get him as your third WR or a potential flex play, he could be a great value pickup and pay off quickly emerging as a legitimate WR2. Benjamin’s value is even higher in PPR leagues due to the volume of passes that will be headed his way.
Try to avoid overpaying for your sleepers as a general rule, but Benjamin’s upsides makes him worth a mid-round pick to give your WR corps plenty of instant upside.