Is Kelvin Benjamin the Best Rookie WR in NFL?

Carolina Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin is having a remarkable rookie season and has not wasted any time stepping into the role as the team’s number one wide receiver. This is a recap of the rookie’s wide receiver so far, where he ranks among other rookies, and what exactly makes him so good.

Kelvin Benjamin was the fifth wide receiver taken in this year’s draft but he has made a strong case through the first half of the season that he is the best wide receiver to come into the league this year. In the chart below, Benjamin leads the group of wide receivers taken in the first round in three of the four categories listed and is only one reception behind Watkins in the fourth category.

Name Receptions Yards Avg. Touchdowns
Kelvin Benjamin 34 477 14.0 5
Sammy Watkins 35 433 12.4 4
Mike Evans 21 258 12.3 2
Odell Beckham Jr. 10 106 10.6 3
Brandin Cooks 34 278 8.2 1

If Benjamin keeps his current pace, he will finish the year with 77 receptions, 1090 yards, and 11 touchdowns.These are impressive numbers for a rookie wide receiver. According to, that would be the fifth best season in terms of receptions and yards and would be tied for the second best in touchdowns among rookie wide receivers in the past 20 seasons. This stat line would be better than A.J. Green and Julio Jones rookie seasons.

One of the reasons, Benjamin has been so impressive is his ability to seemingly improve every week. One of his issues early in the season was dropped passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Benjamin had 3 dropped passes through the first three games. However, over the last four games the rookie wide receiver has only dropped one pass. He has done a much better job of making the catch and bracing for the big hit without losing the ball.

So what exactly has made him so successful? One thing, among many, is his ability to be physical with defenders and use his size to make the catch. There were two plays against Green Bay a week ago, that showed just how good Benjamin is at winning these jump balls.

The first play came in the final drive of the first half when Cam Newton threw a pass down the right sideline that Benjamin was able to go up and grab for 32 yards. Benjamin was able to time his jump perfectly so he could make the catch at the highest point, well above the defense.

*Photo courtesy of NFL Game Rewind

The other play came in the fourth quarter when the Panthers were in the red zone. Benjamin was defended tightly by the Packers however because of his size and his ability to position himself, he was able to go up and make the catch.

*Photo courtesy of NFL Game Rewind

Even though he is a rookie, Benjamin has been playing like a veteran. The Panthers have had rookies win the Associated Press Rookie of the Year award twice in the last three years (Cam Newton in 2011, Luke Kuechly in 2012) and if Benjamin keeps playing the way he is, he should have a strong chance to make it number three.

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