The Carolina Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin last season, which paved the way for Devin Funchess to take over as the team’s No. 1 receiver. In his eight games in that role, Funchess had 483 yards and averaged 16.1 yards per catch. He finished the year with 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games-all career-highs.

Funchess now enters a pivotal season in 2018, which will be the last year of his rookie deal. The former second-round pick realizes he has to build off his breakout campaign and hit free agency on a high.

“I’ve got to build on what I’ve had and just be more successful in all areas of the game,” Funchess said on SiriusXM Blitz. “I preach versatility . . . in whatever you do. When [Benjamin] left, I assumed the role of the X position. Other than that, I know every position of the offense. I’m just trying to move over to the other side and take the reins from there.”

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With Greg Olsen and the speedy Curtis Samuel out for most of last year, Funchess was one of the Panthers’ few reliable receiving options along with rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. To address the team’s lack of receiving weapons, they went out and added veterans Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright and drafted promising rookie D.J. Moore.

Funchess acknowledges there will be more competition for touches this season, but he is nevertheless excited by the prospect of this new-look Panthers receiving corps. If he and that group take another step up this year and provide Cam Newton with consistent weapons, the Panthers could very well be a playoff contender once again in the NFC.