CHARLOTTE – General manager Dave Gettleman said he'd like to select a cornerback on day three of the 2014 draft, and he traded up 20 spots to get one.
After swapping fifth-round picks and trading their seventh-round choice to the Minnesota Vikings, the Panthers drafted San Jose State cornerback Bene' Benwikere in the fifth round with the 148th pick.
"We addressed our corner situation," said Gettleman, who believed the value that Benwikere presented made the trade worthwhile. "We discussed it at length and realized it was a great move. In fact, I got a text from a GM after we did it that said he thought it was a great move.
"He's got excellent ball skills, and he's very smart, which is important back there. You don't want people back there dropping coverages, plain and simple. We really like what Bene' brings. He's going to have an opportunity to compete at the nickel spot right off the bat."
The 6-foot, 192-pound Benwikere finished his four-year college career with 214 tackles, 14 interceptions and 22 passes defensed. He led the Western Athletic Conference with seven interceptions as a junior and tied a school-record with three interceptions in a victory over Louisiana Tech.
"I wasn't really getting thrown at all year. But coming into our last regular season game, (we played) the best quarterback in our league from Louisiana Tech," Benwikere said. "He tested me all game, and I ended up with three interceptions."
Interestingly enough, that quarterback was Colby Cameron – who atteneded training camp with the Panthers last year.
"Well, go figure," Benwikere said with a laugh.
Benwikere – a Los Angeles-native whose father was born in Nigeria – said he felt the Panthers were interested in him after an encouraging pre-draft workout at San Jose State.
"(Passing defense coordinator) Coach Steve Wilks and (head coach) Ron Rivera came down to work me out," Benwikere said. "We went over board work, coach Wilks explained a few defenses to me and gave me a test afterwards. I was able to explain things back to him. Then we took it out to the field, and it was a bunch of ball drills. It was a great time.
"After my workout I immediately felt strongly about them."
The Panthers felt strongly about Benwikere and he's eager to prove he belongs in the NFL.
"I'm an athlete that can catch the ball," he said. "I'm very smart and I'm going to make plays for you."