Slouched on my couch. scrolling through my twitter feed, I waited patiently for Carolina's 168th selection. The suspense sent my imagination in to a state of hypothetical mayhem. I could see the television perfectly from my initial location but when I saw the green "TRADE" icon appear on the ticker at the bottom of the screen while our beloved black and silver Panther logo simulataneously replaced the purple and yellow Norseman on the left, my fandom insincts took the wheel -- I drew closer until I was an entirely unnecessary distance from the Vizio flat screen. I had trained myself to leave my expectations behind. No thoughts, just anticipation violently fluttering in my stomach. The ticker finally unveiled the name of the newest member of the Carolina Panthers as my excitement promptly proceded to deflate. "Bené Benwikere". WELP...
I evalauated and ranked 31 cornerbacks this year and Benwikere holds the 26th spot in said rankings, stamped with a 6th round grade. I'm fully aware that there isn't a single being on the planet that reveres my opinion of these guys so, in essence, my rankings don't matter. I'm typing this fanpost from my bedroom, Dave Gettleman is making these selections from an NFL front office. But to each his own, this is my attempt at cementing my opinion with sufficient validity, while expressing my understanding of the optimistic perspective.
•Roots of the Pessimism•
Relatively stiff; lacks the hip fluidity and quick twitch to survive in man coverage and lacks the speed to make up for it. T-Rex Arm Syndrome combined with below average upperbody strength prevents him from being physical enough to win as a press corner at the line of scrimmage. Benwikere was generally matched up against sub-par FBS competition throughout the course of his career so the lack of refined technique in coverage, particularly intermediate routes in man coverage when receivers challenge him with sudden hooks or outs across his face wasn't necessarily magnified to a highly noticeable extent -- there are numerous examples of Benwikere simply running with the receiver to stay in his vicinity, disregarding proper fundamentals. It seems the speed I knock him for lacking was just enough for his level of competition at times, especially against Colorado State.
As an open field tackler, he is nothing short of atrocious. He and Marcus Roberson are among the worst in the class in that area; Benwikere's an instinctive smart football player and often finds himself in position to make plays but has a tendency to attack off balance with his pad level too high but lacks the quickness to stay in front of ball carriers and often times the strength to wrap up and drive opponents to the turf. He almost always has a difficult time disengaging from blockers which can be attributed to the lack of strength as well.
•A Look at the Bright Side•
Bené Benwikere can absolutely soar -- that's undeniable. The leaping ability is actually phenomenal. He posted a 40.5" vertical leap this past March in Indianapolis and this number is recurrently reflective on tape. Much like Tre Boston (http://www.catscratchreader.com/2014/5/13/5713832/secondary-help-coming-to-the-queen-city-from-a-little-over-100-miles) , he has a knack for reading QB's eyes, flying to the intended target, timing his jump, attacking the high point of the catch and coming down with the ball. Benwikere's just so well equipped to compete for 50/50 balls at this level despite the 30" arms. This is the most impressive asset to his game: he's a ballhawk.
Cerebrally, Benwikere's pro ready -- always seems to understand his assignment and has consistently exemplified impressive play recognition. Benikwere's always aware of the sideline and knows exactly how to work it, playing inside of the receiver on vertical routes and timing the squeeze. He possesses the instinctiveness you want from a corner -- always finding himself in position to make plays, whether or not he finishes is the variable.
•The Overall Outlook•
Teams falling in love with a player's foundation skillset is far from uncommon in this process. Bené Benwikere's a smart instinctive player with springs in his cleats. That's his foundation. If Gettleman saw that as an attractive first brick and has fully enstilled his confidence in potential of Benwikere's growth then I'm on board, if for no other reason than because I have no choice but to be on board. This is the only pick of the DG regime I haven't heavily advocated. I'm pulling for #29 to prove me wrong.