Heading into the offseason the Carolina Panthers have many questions on both sides of the ball and one of those extreme needs is the Wide Receiver position. Carolina is young at this position, besides Steve Smith, but there still needs to be more pieces added to this puzzle to make it a very good unit.
There is some serious NFL talent at this position, but maybe they used these rookies a little too early and put too much pressure on the older Steve Smith to still carry this unit. Here is what I believe is the situation regarding some of the returning receivers for next year, as well as what I believe the Panthers might do in the draft.
Steve Smith- Smith is headed into his 11th year in the league and many fans would agree that this is no longer the Steve Smith we are used to seeing. He has publicly come out and said he is no longer a #1 receiver and has wanted that type of receiver to fill his shoes for a while. I think Smith still has some juice left in him that with an added #1 receiver through the draft would spark that fire and passion we are so used to seeing from him.
David Gettis- Gettis showed some flashes of being a top-tier receiver but then fell off as the season progressed. I still think Gettis is bound to be a solid #2 for this club and will be looked at to make a lot of plays for the Panthers next season. With an added receiver to this group and Steve Smith coming back from the dead, I could see Gettis have a very solid sophomore campaign.
Brandon LaFell- LaFell is the most interesting of these three in my opinion because he possesses a different type of receiving element the Panthers are looking for out of him — “possession”. LaFell reminds me of a better Dwayne Jarrett who Carolina looked at to fill the shoes of Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson was key in catching that crucial third down pass and was hardly really looked at to make very many big plays. LaFell I believe has the height and the hands to fill this role prefectly and he might have more speed than Jarrett and Johnson had, so you might see a little more big play ability out of him. I see LaFell having a very good second season after he sort of accepted his role as the possession receiver to get those crucial first downs.
I said earlier that the Panthers needed to make a move in the draft of acquire that all of us (Steve Smith included) have been looking for. There are a few options the Panthers can go in the draft and here are a couple I thought of that would make sense.
A.J. Green- With the #1 overall pick in the draft the Panthers can do anything they want with this pick. If Carolina decides to hold on to that first pick in the draft there isn’t a better player out there then A.J. Green. Sure there is heavy talent on the defensive side of the ball in this draft, but if the Panthers want to make the best pick for their franchise then I think they go with Green. Many experts have compared him to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, so with those comparisons right there I like it. Green possesses that #1 caliber talent and with his 6-foot-4 frame also makes for a big target to compliment Steve Smith’s smaller frame. I think fans would be satisfied with this pick if the Panthers decide to hold on to their pick and this might be one of the first things Jimmy Clausen and Steve Smith can agree on together to help the team.
Julio Jones- If the Panthers decide to trade that #1 overall pick to maybe get back into the second round to get some other pressing needs, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they selected Julio Jones from Alabama. Although experts have Green as the higher rated player I think Jones displays the same exact big play ability and #1 receiver stuff. The two prospects are about the same size in height, but Jones is about 15 lbs. heavier than Green. Both players will go on to have great NFL success, so if the Panthers want to trade away from the top pick and move to a little later in the drafte then Jones is still a great pick with all of the #1 receiver stuff.
The Carolina Panthers are in a great position with plenty of options to work with at the top pick in the draft, so we will see if they decide to hold on to that pick or if they think they can still get what they were looking for by trading it away and getting back into the second round. Either way the Panthers are on the clock.