The Carolina Panthers have who they hope is their wide receiver of the future.

The Panthers continued the overhaul of their receiving corps Thursday when they took former Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with the 28th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Despite picking late in the first round of a receiver-rich draft, the Panthers had a choice between Benjamin and Southern Cal wideout Marqise Lee.

But as was the case last year when he took defensive tackle Star Lotulelei in the first round, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wasted no time calling in the pick.

Gettleman said the choice of Benjamin over the 6-foot, 192-pound Lee came down to size.

"You can't coach 6-5, 240," Gettleman said. "He's got a lot of upside. ... He gives us a legitimate threat to have a No. 1."

Benjamin celebrated with his family and friends in Florida.

Benjamin, 23, said he's been a Panthers' fan since they drafted quarterback Cam Newton in 2011.

"I guess you could say when Cam got there, I always dreamed I'd come in there and play with Cam, contribute to the organization," Benjamin said on a conference call minutes after being drafted.

Benjamin said Newton reminds him of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who -- like Newton -- won a Heisman Trophy and led his team to a national championship.

"Just his will to compete and win -- that's something Jameis has," Benjamin said. "That's something I love in a quarterback. I'll go out and do anything for him."

Benjamin, 6-5 and 240 pounds, caught 54 passes last season for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, pulling down the game-winning score against Auburn in the BCS title game.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was impressed with Benjamin's response when Rivera asked him about his game-winning, 2-yard catch with 13 seconds left against Auburn.

"He said, 'I wasn't going to let the quarterback down,'" Rivera said. "I loved that confidence. And I love the fact that he had his quarterback's back."

Benjamin isn't a blazer (he ran the 40 in 4.61 seconds at the combine). But he has an 83-inch wingspan and immediately gives quarterback Newton a big red-zone target.

"I'm sure that Cam's not mad at me now," Gettleman said.

Asked what his strengths are, Benjamin said: "Just being a physical receiver, going up and getting the ball at the highest point, blocking at the point (of attack), and just coming out and being a game-changer."

Gettleman said college scouting director Don Gregory was confident Benjamin would be available at 28. Gettleman said he knew in his "kishkes," the Yiddish word for "guts," Benjamin would be there.

Since the week in March when the Panthers lost their top four receivers from last season -- cutting franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and seeing three other wideouts leave in free agency -- signs pointed to Carolina taking a receiver in the first round.