This article is in response to a number of articles I have recently read and videos I've seen or analysts saying the Panthers were foolish to ignore their 'major need' of a Wide Receiver in the recent NFL draft. Are the Panthers really in troubling waters in the passing game? Will the lack of talent surrounding Cam stunt his development as a potential blue chip QB?
The answer put as bluntly as possible? Absolutely not!!
Now, I need to start by saying, that even if is were a concern, there really was no pick that the Panthers were sitting on that would have been worth taking in the draft. The closest was Deandre Hopkins in the first round, but with Star sitting on the board it was a no brainer.
So, onto business: The Carolina Panthers currently sit with 13 Wideouts on the roster. No doubt this will be shed significantly, and there may even be new additions from other teams, but the core of the group lies with Smitty, Brandon Lafell and Domenix Hixon. These three will likely be the top of the depth chart come September, and there will also be contributions from guys like Ted Ginn, Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards, not to mention young playmaker Joe Adams who could make a leap, and David Gettis returning from the injury bug.
As the above list shows, there is a ton of depth in the Panthers WR unit, without alot of Superstar quality. Or is there? Firstly, I'm sure all of you have read the recent story about how retired Bucs DB Ronde Barber announced that Steve Smith was the toughest WR he's faced in his career. That includes Megatron, Jerry Rice, Larry FItzgerald, Julio Jones, Roddy White... the list continues.. Now that is a serious accolade to hold. Obviously Smith isnt as good as Jerry Rice, but the point is, he's still playing at an extremely high level, and is a force to be reckoned with each and every week. His numbers dropped a little this season, but mainly due to the slight drop in Cam's play, and the fact that Smith consistently saw double teams in the passing game.
Right, everyone knows Smith is great, now let's discuss the other 'forgotten players'.
Domenix Hixon- Sat on a depth chart with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz (arguably the best tandem in football at the moment) ahead of him. He still put up very productive numbers last season and looks to possibly be able to make a jump to the next level and become a number 2 receiver. He has all the traits that coaches covet: Good in-game speed, size, attacks the ball at the point of the catch, strong hands... Hopefully, he will have a great season this year and lock down the number 2 spot for a few years.
Brandon Lafell- Great article written about him recently, with the link here. It shows him as a solid possession WR and who has put up middle of the road stats for a number 2 guy. Just think- if he can be slotted in as the number 3 possession guy, he'll definitely be one of the best in the league at that job. I'll say no more about him, as the article above talks about him in detail.
The rest of the pack- One of Edwards, Pilares, Gettis or Ginn will have a productive and solid season since theyre all too talented not to. This means the Panthers are looking at having 5 guys available each week that can step up and do the job of helping Cam win.
This article is based around the WRs on the depth chart, and so as well as the talent discussed briefly above, I have completely ignored the fact that Carolina firstly has one of the best catching TE's in the league in Greg Olsen, and secondly is a run-first offense, with a three headed best at RB. On top of this, Deangelo Williams and John Stewart are both good catching RBs, as is newbie Kenjon Barner. This gives Cam three more targets in the passing game.
To conclude, yes the Carolina Panthers need to find the long term replacement for Steve Smith, and yes outside Smith there are no superstars, but in reality, that really isnt a huge problem. Not every team can have Roddy White and Julio Jones in their camp, and to be honest some of the best teams don'y have 2 or three superstar playmakers... The Panthers still have Smitty, who hasn't given any indication of becoming less competitive or worse as a player, and they have great depth behind him to help Cam in clutch times. Could the Panthers do with taking a WR in the 2014 draft? Yes... Will they be unable to take the leap to the playoffs without 2 young superstar WRs? No.
In the 2014 draft, the Panthers need to take two high caliber Offensive lineman (ideally tackles) to sure up the line and make it a force for years to come. Give Cam Newton time to throw in the pocket, and the group of WRs he has around him will easily be able to get the job done.
As always, thanks for reading, and leave your opinion below!