As a rookie in 2014, Benjamin quickly established himself as a No. 1 receiver by producing 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. Carolina fans couldn’t wait to see what he would do in Year 2, but he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. Cue the sad trombone.
But KB’s back and Panthers fans are looking forward with giddy anticipation to see how much destruction the 6-foot-5, 245-pound beast will unleash upon physically inferior cornerbacks across the NFL.
But before looking forward to 2016, let’s take a look back on Benjamin’s historic 2014 rookie season.
Yes, Kelvin Benjamin’s historic rookie season.
What Do You Mean, Historic?
Kelvin Benjamin’s 2014 rookie season was historic in the sense that no rookie receiver had ever exceeded 70 receptions with at least 1,000 yards and nine TDs since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, per pro-football-reference.com.
That’s 44 years without a first-year WR posting a 70 – 1,000 – 9 season.
Then, in 2014, rookies Benjamin and Odell Beckham, Jr. both shattered the 70 – 1,000 – 9 barrier
These three categories – receptions, yards, and TDs – looked at together are important. The more receptions and yards a receiver puts up, the more often he’s moving the chains, extending drives, and putting the offense in position to score. Scoring ultimately wins games, so looking at TDs in addition to receptions and yardage gives a good sense of the receiver’s total impact on the game.
Prior to 2014, no rookie receiver had ever produced a comprehensive season like KB’s, reaching 70 – 1,000 – 9.
Just How Hard is 70 Receptions, 1,000 Yards, or 9 TDs for a Rookie WR?
Wide receiver is a notoriously difficult position for rookies. Receiver, more than any other position in football, requires being in perfect synch with another player, in this case the quarterback.
Getting a wide receiver in synch with his QB normally takes time.
QBs and WRs need to be on the same page with routes, timing, angles, coverage schemes, audibles, and a host of other factors in order for a reception to occur. Quarterbacks often release their passes before the receiver makes his break, so even the slightest miscommunication between the two normally results in an incompletion.
Because it generally takes time for QBs and WRs to build a solid rapport, it is rare for rookie receivers to reach any of the 70 – 1,000 – 9 thresholds, let alone all three of them like KB did in 2014.
Consider the following stats for rookie wide receivers between 1970 and 2013 via pro-football-reference.com:
- Only 8 rookie WRs had 70-plus receptions (Note: Excluding Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey since they were primarily RB and TE, respectively.)
- Only 12 rookie WRs exceeded 1,000 yards
- Only 12 rookie WRs scored at least nine TDs
Kelvin Benjamin exceeding the 70 – 1,000 – 9 threshold was more than a good rookie season. It was dominant.
It was historic.
Panthers fans are giddy as they imagine what a healthy Kelvin Benjamin will do in 2016, and rightfully so.
After all, KB should have his opportunities to shine this year. Opposing defenses will be faced with some difficult pick-your-poison decisions. They will somehow have to contain dual-threat MVP Cam Newton, stop Greg Olsen over the middle, prevent deep balls to Ted Ginn, and match up with the 6-foot-5 Benjamin and his emerging 6-foot-4 WR counterpart, Devin Funchess.
Good luck with that, guys.
Kelvin Benjamin made history as a rookie with his individual stats in 2014.
Now that he’s back, it’s time to make history once again - this time by Kelvin Benjamin doing his part in bringing the Lombardi Trophy to the Carolinas.
Now that would be historic.