In this second edition of BPA vs. Need, I'll be looking at two positions that both could be considered needs for the Carolina Panthers; wide receiver and offensive tackle. No Carolina receiver finished with more than 750 yards or five touchdowns and the unit desperately needs an infusion of talent. Steve Smith is 34 years old and slowing down rapidly, while Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon are all free agents. Meanwhile at offensive tackle, Byron Bell is a marginal starter, while Jordan Gross is a free agent and 33 years old. Both positions need upgrades, however, I feel like offensive tackle is more of a need, which I'll explain further down.
This brings us to the draft. Carolina is on the clock and Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is on the board. But in a stunner, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee has fallen to the 28th pick as well. Lee had absolutely phenomenal freshmen and sophomore seasons for the Trojans, but his play dropped off substantially after Matt Barkley left for the NFL. Lack of production, questions about his slight frame and injury history and the rise of another prospect like Kelvin Benjamin could cause him to fall to the Panthers pick at 28.
Standing 6 feet tall and weighing 195 pounds, Lee isn't the most built receiver. The 22-year-old possesses absolutely incendiary speed however. This speed creates mismatches all over the field, as Lee can run by just about anybody on the football field. As a true freshman, he recorded 73 catches for 1143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He followed that by notching 118 catches for 1721 yards and 14 touchdowns his sophomore season, winning the Biletnikoff award for the nation's best receiver. As flawed as Steve Smith comparisons are, I do see a lot of Smith in Lee's game. Obviously there's a sizable size difference, but both are lethal after the catch; Lee is a threat to score any time he touches the football. Both are accomplished return men and grew up in the projects of California, making it out where others didn't. Lee plays with a visible edge and chip on his shoulder, and he wants the ball in his hands every play.
That said, there are some warts to Lee's game. He has a tendency to body catch on occasion, and he won't win a physical matchup with a defensive back. He has a slight frame and needs to improve his strength for the next level, he also has experienced some injury problems over the course of his collegiate career. He loses the ball trying to fight for extra yardage on occasion. And of course, there is the stigma with wide receivers from USC, although that's a less concrete knock on him as a player. That said, if drafted by Carolina, Lee could quickly become the successor to Steve Smith the team has been searching for.
On the other side stands Cyrus Kouandjio. There is a lot to like about Kouandjio. He is a massive man at 6'5 and 312 pounds and comes from a school known for producing quality offensive linemen. He's strong and punishing in the run game, adept at walling off defenders and getting to the second level. In pass protection, his strength and length helps him out a great deal, however the technical aspects of his game, like footwork, hand placement and balance need some work. Kouandjio is only 20 years old however, a good offensive line coach could do wonders with him. He fits with the Panthers offensive philosophy, team identity, and penchant for drafting complicated names.
Carolina is a smashmouth football team to the core, and became this way in part because Dave Gettleman drafted two defensive tackles in the draft last year. Drafting Kouandjio could have a similar effect on the offense, as it would immediately shore up the right tackle spot and add a nasty edge in the run game. Carolina's offensive scheme, maligned as it is, is designed to punish opponents through running the football and controlling time of possession through long, sustained drives. A starting lineup of Gross/Silatolu/Kalil/Williams/Kouandjio could be very effective, with Byron Bell, Travelle Wharton and Nate Chandler providing solid depth. Kouandjio possesses the athletic talent to play left tackle, but even if he doesn't ever grow into that, he still provides us with flexibility for the next couple seasons.
So weigh in below what you think; Marqise Lee or Cyrus Kouandjio. (As a sidenote, the current results of the other poll as of writing are 50-37 favoring Gilbert)