Kelvin Benjamin's injury puts focus on run game

The worst case scenario happened for the Carolina Panthers when the news came that wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL. The second-year wideout suffered the injury during Wednesday's practice and was carted off the field.

Benjamin's loss leaves the Panthers woefully thin at the wide receiver position. The team was uncertain as to who would be the No. 2 receiver with rookie Devin Funchess competing alongside Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery and Brenton Bersin to earn the spot. Now, Carolina is forced to determine who their new primary wide receiver will be. While Benjamin had his flaws, there's no denying the impact he had on the Panthers' passing game.

While Ron Rivera's team will look for the next man up (keep in mind that said man could eventually be a free agent brought in off the street), there isn't any immediate fantasy value among the names currently on the Panthers' depth chart. If anything, Benjamin's loss will put an extra burden on Greg Olsen to carry the Carolina passing game. After having a career year in 2014, it's hard to imagine the 30-year-old veteran can do much more. But you can expect that he'll once again see somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 targets.

The injury could strike an equally big blow to Cam Newton's fantasy prospects in 2015. The veteran quarterback had built a rapport with his big wideout and formed a connection that defenses had to respect. The remaining receivers don't strike the same type of fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Look for Newton to spread the ball out a little bit more among his targets, but his overall passing numbers are likely to come down, which has dropped him in my QB rankings out of the top 10 and down to No. 12.

One saving grace for Newton remains his ability to run with the football. It's one of the reasons he was a top-four quarterback in three of his first four seasons in the league. While his rushing touchdown totals have decreased each season, his 33 total rushing scores are tied for fourth among all NFL players. If Carolina is going to have any success in 2015, Newton will likely have to do a lot of work with his legs.

Speaking of doing work on the ground, there is going to be a bigger workload placed on Jonathan Stewart's shoulders this season. The veteran running back finally has the backfield all to himself after the departure of DeAngelo Williams this offseason. There are certainly questions about a player who has only topped 200 carries once in his seven-year career, but we are going to find out whether Stewart is able to carry the load as a workhorse rusher. He had nice potential as an RB2 in the fourth round, but with more emphasis likely place on the Panthers running game, Stewart will start coming off the board a little sooner in drafts.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Tweet him @MarcasG.

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