Carolina Panthers Draft 2013: WR Prospects in Carolina

Kevin C. Cox

Over the last few months Carolina has invited many WRs from the first and second rounds to visit. It seems almost undeniable that one of our first two picks will be on this critical skill position. Simply put, the Panthers are trying to put players around Cam Newton that will help him succeed. However, some big names out there like Tavon Austin, and Cordarrelle Patterson haven't even been asked to come visit the team. We'll take a quick look at the group whom has actually met with the team already.

The Top Two

In this group, we have two definite first round locks: Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins. No, you didn't hear me incorrectly. DeAndre Hopkins is not a "fringe" second round pick that's moving up to the first round. He is a legitimate choice in that mix, one that some think may be one of the best WRs in the draft. We'll do a break down of each one of these guys one by one, starting with the Clemson prospect.

DeAndre Hopkins

Year

Receptions

Yards

TD

2012

82

1405

18

2011

72

978

5

2010

51

626

4

Strenghts: DeAndre Hopkins may not be the biggest WR or the fastest, but he is perhaps one of the most technically sound in the entire draft class. His straight line speed, while not the best in the draft class, is under rated and combined with his crisp route running, Hopkins can make sudden quick cuts to get separation from his opponents. He has great body control which he uses to shield defenders and paired with excellent hands to haul in difficult passes. (Clemson student bonus: check out his corkscrew catch in the back of the endzone against LSU to see what I'm talking about). Additionally, Hopkins has a knack for going up and attacking the balls at their highest point, not unlike Steve Smith in that regard. He was also an effective run blocker for Clemson when asked to do so. Hopkins is simply an all-around versatile WR who can be used in any offense at any time and attack every level of the defense.

Weaknesses: Measurables. If you're the type of person that gets giddy at the thought of a 4.3 WR, you're not going to like Hopkins. On paper, Hopkins does not impress because nothing really stands out. He's only 6'1" and his forty times were not great at the combine (though those did improve during his Pro-Day). His appeal comes from his work on the field.

Conclusion: I'm honestly not sure where the knock on Hopkins as 2nd round prospect comes from, despite what some have written (even some on here). Rest assured, he will not be there. Hopkins has improved his game every year he has been at Clemson and last year showed the potential to be a dangerous weapon if leaned upon. Hopkins's production increased every year, as I said before, culminating in the 4th most yards this past season (2nd most among draft prospects) and 2nd most TDs. Of this draft class, only Stedman Baily had more. He'll be one of the WRs in this draft, and even resident Clemson-hating editor BW Smith agrees.

Keenan Allen

Year

Receptions

Yards

TD

2012

61

737

6

2011

98

1343

6

2010

46

490

5

Strenghts: The WR prospect out of Cal went into the 2012-2013 season looking like the top prospect in the draft. He's a big, strong WR who makes excellent use of his body. He's a great route runner, who can fool defenders with a sudden break to get all the separation he'll need. Because of his size, he's not only able to out jump defenders in the air, but he uses it to his advantage when blocking.

Weaknesses: His knee injury is perhaps one of his biggest concerns. But hey, the Panthers have had pretty good luck in that department, right? Hogan and Otah turned out great!... Okay enough joking aside, that's really his biggest draw back. He's also not exactly the fastest WR out there, but he is fast enough. There was a major drop off in his production last season, which was limited both by his quarterback at Cal and his knee injury, which kept him out of the final 3 games.

Conclusion: If Keenan Allen hadn't suffered his PCL sprain, there's probably no question that he would be the top WR in this draft. And I'll admit, personally I am a little scared about our history with players and their knee injuries. However, if this all turns out to be much ado about nothing, then he should still be perhaps the best WR. He's spent considerable amount of time with our team, working out with the Panthers WR Coach Ricky Proehl at his training facility in Greensboro, NC and another private workout is said to have been schedule already. There is a definite interest here and the Panthers may indeed be looking to pair up this exceptional WR with Cam Newton to improve our offense.

Author's Note: I find myself seeing a lot of comparisons between Hopkins and Allen. Is it a coincidence that both have two meetings with the team? Secondary Note: If they are so similar, why not take the one with the least risk... (That'd be Hopkins, ya'll.)

Looking to the 2nd Round

We know the Panthers are looking at the first round talent in WRs, but there's also a chance, depending on how the draft goes, that the Panthers will select a defensive tackle in the first round and follow that up by adding a WR in the second round (or later). In the event that we end up going in another direction with our first pick, let's look at our options in the later rounds who have already visited the Panthers: Quinton Patton and Stedman Bailey.

Quinton Patton

Year

Receptions

Yards

TD

2012

104

1392

13

2011

79

1202

11

Strenghts: Quinton Patton was one of the most productive WRs over the last two years, putting up nearly 2600 yards and 24 TDs. He is a good route runner and what some scouts call a "gritty" WR, fighting for the ball with defensive backs and getting physical with them at the line of scrimmage. He has excellent hands and is good at hauling in the tough, contested passes that other WRs may drop.

Weaknesses: A little short, and not as quick as some, Patton's biggest knock is in his potential upside. The sad truth is that Patton has been hit with a marker that he simply may be destined to be simply best as your 3rd WR, not 1st or 2nd. He's not going to stretch the field like some other guys, being best in the role as a slot WR.

Conclusion: The one thing about Patton that you simply can't argue with is his production. Over the last 2 years, he has been one of the most consistently productive WRs in college football, putting up almost 2600 yards and 24 TDs in just 2 years. However, I'd have some concerns about his future role with the Panthers, seeing as how we're going to eventually need a 1st WR, and even possibly another 2nd WR if LaFell leaves in free agency. Questions about Patton's ceiling are going to really force the issue here. If the Panthers brass believes he can transcend his short comings, they may opt to go for the Louisiana Tech prospect.

Stedman Bailey

Year

Receptions

Yards

TD

2012

114

1622

25

2011

72

1279

12

2010

24

317

4

Strengths: Bailey is a quick, athletic, and productive WR out of West Virginia. A lot of oohs and ahhs were made about his team mate, Tavon Austin, at the combine, but don't let that convince you that Bailey has been overshadowed. He lead the entire country last year in touchdowns last season and had the most receiving yards out of any WR in this draft class. Not only that, but every year he has improved upon his previous performance, showing constant and consistent growth from year to year, no doubt in part to his very good route-running.

Weaknesses: Short. That was the first thing I read on the scouting reports about him almost every time. And let's face it, he is. At 5'10" he's simply not the biggest guy on the field, but we all know that size doesn't always matter at WR (even if it certainly can help). There are also questions about whether his shear speed will translate well in the NFL. As James astutely noted on CatScratch Radio last night, the guys who run the fastest don't exactly make the best WRs at this level. And despite Bailey's quickness, he's not particularly explosive nor is he shifty when changing directions.

Conclusions: This is another guy whose been labeled a "third WR" much like Quinton Patton. There are simply concerns about whether or not his game will translate well into the NFL. But let's face it... If there weren't questions about those things he would be a first round prospect, right? And it's not as though Bailey didn't put up big numbers against quality competition: 300 yards vs. Baylor (and 5 TDs to boot...), 200 yards against both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And let's not forget how well he torched LSU and their prized secondary the year before. There's no question about whether or not Bailey is capable, only about how far he will go at the next level.

But what about...?

For those of you pining for Cordarelle Patterson or Tavon Austin, I regret to inform you that at this time, we simply haven't seen any indication that the Panthers are targetting those players. As many have noted, you generally do not spend your early selections on picks with players you haven't met, and if you do the results can be disastrous (everyone wave at Jimmy!). When it comes down to it, we've looked at two sets of players who are extremely identical. DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen are both very similar in size, speed, and ability as are Bailey and Patton.

My personal preference, not entirely due to Clemson, is Hopkins, but hopefully this article has helped you round out your own opinions to make for yourself.

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