College Spotlight: Tuesday Afternoon Prospect

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After that devastating playoff loss, I'm already having visions of who might be able to come in and help take this team to the next level. I believe today's candidate could do just that.

Exposed. That's right. The Carolina Panther's were exposed on Sunday and it was painfully evident. The San Francisco 49ers are a well coached team and as such, they were able to exploit our weaknesses. In case you haven't been paying attention, there are exactly three of them: The secondary, the right side of the offensive line and a less than ideal receiving corp. Over the course of the next four months, you can be sure that Dave Gettleman and the scouting department will be doing whatever it takes to turn that trio of deficiencies into strengths. During that same time period, T.A.P. will also be examining athletes who possess the type of skill set that this organization may be looking for in the 2014 NFL Draft. Let's get started.

Can any of you remember who our very first Tuesday Afternoon Prospect was? Think fast. If you said Sammy Watkins, then you were correct. At the time, obtaining his services might have seemed plausible. Four months later, not so much. The Panthers first playoff trip in five years nipped that one in the bud. But that's quite alright. It just so happens that this year's draft is teeming with worthy receivers who will be available early, late and everywhere in between. With that being said, I give you Martavis Bryant. That 's right. Watkins' very own teammate.

Coming out of high school, the highly regarded Bryant was expected to contribute right away. But poor academics and work ethic delayed his maturation. Even so, I'm not certain he could have earned a starting position anyway. Replacing Watkins and current Houston Texan DeAndre Hopkins in the starting lineup would have been a tall task even under the best of circumstances. Frankly, going into the 2013 season, Bryant had mostly been a disappointment and that trend was looking to stay the same through the first two games. Teammate and fellow receiver Charone Peake had already beat him out for a starting position when an opening presented itself. Peake tore his ACL in practice and the rest is history. He and Watkins went on to form one of the most dynamic receiving duos in the country.

Strengths

Bryant matches up well with what the Panthers need in a big way. Listed at 6-Foot-5, 205-Pounds, he is a mismatch nightmare, especially in the red zone. He has outstanding speed and uses it well to gain separation for long gains. In fact, he led the nation in yards per reception in 2012 and finished ninth in the same category this season. The two positives that stood out the most while watching Bryant's highlights were his very large catch radius and his ability to track the ball in the air even when defenders are draped all over him. He masterfully uses his elite body control while contorting himself into position to snatch off target passes out of the air and composes his feet well to land safely in bounds when attempting to catch the ball along the sideline. Additionally, Bryant appears to have little fear when running crossing patterns over the middle of the field and possesses good vision in space.

Weaknesses

On the downside, Bryant lacks physical strength and needs to work on his blocking. Although he does use his hands well to catch the ball, he has also shown the propensity to drop passes. Regrettably, he left a trail of immature behavior both academically and on the field. The former led to a suspension in Clemson's 2012 Bowl game and the latter came in full view when he made a throat-slashing gesture after catching a touchdown pass against N.C. State earlier this season. When it comes to route running, the South Carolina native could use a great deal of work. He got by well enough by excelling on post and go routes in college, but he'll need to improve drastically in this area if he plans on making a long lasting name for himself in the NFL.

Final Word

Ultimately, Bryant is one of those high risk/high reward type prospects whose college production, physical make up and explosiveness reminds me of Stephen Hill. Of course, the former Yellow Jacket hasn't exactly worked out too well for the New York Jets so far, but taking him in the second round is where they went wrong. They fell in love with his workout numbers and figured he would just follow in the footsteps of former Georgia Tech greats, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. I imagine Bryant will look good in the forty, vertical and agility drills, which will only increase his draft stock, but I predict he won't be taken any earlier than the fourth round. With that being said, if he is still there in the fifth round, I'd take him in a heartbeat.

What about you CSR? Before you get started, take a quick look at my first official 2014 Panthers' mock draft located below Bryant's highlight video and let me know what you think in the poll and the comment section that follows.

WR Martavis Bryant Career Stats

Year Games Receptions Yards Yards/Reception Touchdowns
2011 14 9 221 24.56 2
2012 10 10 305 30.50 4
2013 13 42 828 19.71 7


Carolina Panthers 2014 Mock Draft 1.0

Round Prospect Height Weight College
1st WR Jordan Matthews 6' 3" 205 Vanderbilt
2nd OT La'el Collins 6' 5" 315 LSU
3rd CB Kyle Fuller 6' 0" 187 Virginia Tech
4th DE Kareem Martin 6' 6" 265 UNC
5th WR Martavis Bryant 6' 5" 205 Clemson
6th OLB Denicos Allen 5' 11" 225 Michigan State
7th SS Alden Darby 5' 11" 195 Arizona State
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