The Panthers #132 draft pick WR Kealoha Pilares could wind up being the Panthers best draft pick of 2011, even counting Cam Newton (for those who think I have nothing good to say about the Panthers).
No one can forcast the NFL future of any rookie WR with a high degree of certainty, even the most "sure thing" WR's often crash and burn, but I believe Pilares could be a new Steve Smith. The Panthers did a great job of scouting out, and drafting Pilares. Because of an injury Pilares couldn't workout at the Combine, and Hawaii had one of the last Pro Days, just 2 or 3 weeks before the draft. Great job Panthers!
WR Kealoha Pilares (5-10 3/8, 201, 8 3/4 inch hands 30 3/4 inch arms, 4.42-40, 40 1/2 inch vertical jump, 10-5 broad jump, 6.85 3-cone drill, and a 4.11 20 yard shuttle) Pro Day workout numbers just blew everyone away, because most scouts expected him to only run around a 4.60-40, and his 4.42-40 really surprised everyone. Along with his unexpectedly good speed, Pilares showed great explosion with his vertical and broad jump numbers. These workout numbers show that he's fully recovered from his injury as well.
Pilares is a smaller version of UNC WR Greg Little, the #59 pick of the Browns, and both were RB's before moving to WR, and do well in YAC. He also reminds me of Steve Smith, in that he plays much stronger than you would expect from his size. He's 23 years old, and had 4 productive years at Hawaii (50 games, and 29 starts), with 26 catches (for 249 yards)in 2007, 29 catches (for 246 yards) in 2008, 66 catches (for 690 yards) in 2009, and 88 catches (for 1,306 yards) in 2010, and a career total of 209 catches (for 2,491, a 11,9 yard average, and 22 TD's). His first 2 seasons may have been at least partly at RB (YPC averages under 10.0 yards), his top YPC of 14.8 came in 2010. His numbers are probably somewhat inflated because of Hawaii's pass happy spread offense (their other WR Greg salas had 119 catches in 2010, ans drafted at #102 by the Rams), but that's still a lot of experience catching the ball. It could take awhile to learn the NFL route tree.
Here are some pre draft quotes about Pilares:
"Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide 2011" - "Thickly built, productive, feisty, quickler-than-fast slot receiver and converted running back who understands how to work inside, catch and get upfield. Has enough suddenness, strength and toughness to operate short-to-intermediate. ... Good hands, strength and balance ... Quick into routes ... Sticks his foot and pops out of breaks ... Adjust to throws ... Catches on contact ... Limited route tree in pass-happy system ... More of a weaver than a creative runner."
"Sporting News Draft Guide 2011" - "Is a quick and agile athlete who can change direction in a flash. Runs sharp and precise routes and has a burst out of his cuts to consistently get seperation from coverage. Has good hands and consistently catches nearly every pass he can get his hand on. Is stronger than most 5-10 receivers and runs more like a tailback once he has the ball. Has the quickness and agility to stop and start in a flash to make tacklers miss and gain yards after contact. Is a patient and instintinctive runner after the catch. Follows his blockers well and can burst through the hole once it opens up. ... Tends to body catch passes within his fram at times. While Pilares is small for the next level, he has the playing strength few receivers do, which enables him to constantly keep his feet against hand hits and consistently gain yards after contact. ... "
I hope I haven't jinxed Pilares with my compliments.