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Panthers have 'strong weapon' in Benjamin

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- As the Carolina Panthers wrapped up Tuesday's practice, long-time NFL talent evaluator Gil Brandt said in almost disbelief, "Did you see that catch he made over there?"

Brant, who built the Dallas Cowboys into a power under Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry and currently an NFL.com analyst, was referring to Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin.

The former Florida State wide receiver used his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame for two touchdown catches from Cam Newton on fade routes to the left side during red zone drills.

The one Brandt specifically referred to was a twisting catch in which Benjamin adjusted his body in mid-air to bring the ball down over cornerback James Dockery.

"You get a guy like this that goes up and catches the ball the way he does, there are not many [defensive backs] who are going to knock it down,'' Brandt said during a visit to Carolina's training camp at Wofford College.

"They've got a strong weapon.''

Brandt had Benjamin rated as a mid-first round selection, so he believes Carolina got a deal at No. 28.

Benjamin was the fifth wide receiver selected behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins (4th, Buffalo), Texas A&M's Mike Evans (7th, Tampa Bay), LSU's Odell Beckham (12th, New York Giants) and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks (20th, New Orleans).

Many of the draft experts said the gap between Watkins, who will face the Panthers on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium, and everybody else outside of Evans was big.

Brandt disagreed, saying Benjamin is as good as any of them and better than others -- albeit he wouldn't say who.

As for Carolina's overall group of receivers after losing its top four from last season -- including all-time leading receiver Steve Smith -- Brandt was impressed.

"They're better than people think they are,'' he said of Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant that make up the top three.

Brandt also isn't predicting a huge drop off from last season's 12-4 record as many are.

"I tell you this, the Panthers are in a good spot because everybody is saying they can't win 11 games, they can't do this and they can't do that," Brandt said. "As an organization and as a coaching staff, they do one heck of a job here."