Fantasy Football Stock Watch: Kelvin Benjamin and the Panthers shine against the Texans

Kelvin Benjamin looked excellent against the Texans. See who else balled out for the Panthers in their first preseason game.

Kelvin Benjamin hushed the naysayers, at least for now, with a solid preseason debut.

Towering over most defensive backs at 6-5, Benjamin should be a red zone target all season long. On Wednesday night, Texans CB Jonathan Joseph was his victim.

About 30 yards out, Derek Anderson lofted a pass that only the wideout could catch, well out of reach for the smaller defender. And to Benjamin’s credit, he made a leaping grab in the front of the end zone.

Benjamin catches flak mainly for arriving at OTAs overweight, but if this is a sign of things to come, he can be a beast in the red zone. Originally labeled an “overpriced” player to avoid, Benjamin rose in The Wolf’s wide receiver rankings (up to WR31) after proving he’s back in shape and ready to out-leap corners in the end zone. Cam Newton still remains a question mark, but high-end WR2 value is within his reach if the two can connect like Benjamin’s rookie season.

The player of the game, though, was Damiere Byrd, who has been on the Panthers practice squad and is likely an unknown to the wider football world.

Well, until now that is.The 24-year-old had four receptions for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns. The first was a 50-yard bomb from third-stringer Joe Webb. Byrd beat the coverage over the top for what was an easy reception.

There are four receivers locked in for the 53-man roster: KB, Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard and Curtis Samuel, a second-round draft pick limited at training camp by a hamstring sprain.
Right now, The Charlotte Observer has Byrd slotted in one of the remaining wideout spots.
With Ted Ginn Jr. gone to New Orleans, the Panthers need a speedster to emerge who can blow the top of coverages.

It could be second-round draft pick Curtis Samuel, or perhaps Byrd. He’s not someone to draft in fantasy quite yet, but he certainly has the upside of a “dice roll” flex option in bye weeks who could explode and swing a week.

And boy, how good could Christian McCaffrey be?

Forget the stats, just look at his runs.

As evidenced by his 12 yard gash to open the game, he’s small, shifty and makes cuts that freeze defenders. Limited to some runs between the tackles and out wide, McCaffrey looks like he could break a big one every time he touches the ball. Yet, he’s not just a “space back,” as McCaffrey can clearly get behind his blocks well and glides up the middle. Combined with his expected heavy involvment in the passing game, too (that clip of him shaking Luke Kuechly out of his shoes!) and he’ll be a nightmare for defenses. There’s PPR RB1 upside here, Jonathan Stewart notwithstanding.

Other Panthers fantasy football notes:

Carolina’s defensive starters looked strong against the Texans first-string offense.

Cam Newton did not play, as was expected. The team has pumped the brakes with him, as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. He did throw some routes Friday with receivers.

Greg Olsen was Greg Olsen. He’s coming off of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and looked spry as ever on his 32 yard big play down the seams. Given the addition of new weapons, he might get fewer targets, but he’s earned the right to be Cam’s security blanket. Him and KB should give defense fits in the red zone.


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