2014 NFL draft: Should Panthers look at TE before WR?

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

There's no doubt Carolina needs an offensive weapon in the upcoming draft, but we might have been looking at this the wrong way.

Wide receivers are risky, especially in the back end of the first round. There's an overwhelming tendency for them to be busts and there are some key clues that Carolina could surprise with a tight end, rather than a wide receiver.

Star Lotulelei fell into the Panthers laps in 2013. It was the perfect confluence of need and best player available that allowed Carolina to get its most coveted player midway through the first round. Things could have gone very differently and high on the team's draft board was Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame. At first it might seem confusing that a team with Greg Olsen could take a second tight end, but there's a lot of sense to it.

Dave Gettleman is an old school football guy, but he thinks in modern terms about offensive weapons. It's not about adhering to a strict two receiver, tight end structure -- rather there's an emphasis on putting the best players on the field, regardless of position. To this end adding a second TE to use as a pure weapon makes a lot of sense, given that player can play outside.

Take a look at Cam Newton's 2013 passing chart from Pro Football Focus and you see why this is true. He's a great deep passer, but became even better at hitting players at intermediate distances.

Newton_passing_medium

Positive grades across the board, an average passer rating of over 90.0 when throwing 10-19 yards. This is where tight ends win and why Greg Olsen was so integral last season. We're all looking at available wide receivers with deep flaws, but how about a nearly complete tight end who could be just as effective?

Enter Jace Amaro.

It might not address the Panthers biggest need, but the talented TE from Texas Tech could be just what the Panthers need until they can find that future wide receiver. He has excellent size, which the Panthers love and could be a more effective target than the slew of risks that tend to hamper late-round wide receivers.

This is what Dan Brugler of CBS Sports says about Amaro.

STRENGTHS: Lining up mostly in the slot, Amaro is a big, fluid athlete who uses his thick body to gain proper positioning in coverage and uses his large, soft mitts to attack the ball in the air. He is a balanced route-runner and collects himself when changing direction with smooth moves to create separation. Amaro is dangerous after the catch and isn't an easy ballcarrier to bring down, running with power and toughness.


WEAKNESSES: Some maturity and attitude questions that will need to be addressed. Receiving tight end who won't be a fit for all schemes unless he can get in an NFL training program and bulk up.

Maturity issues are a concern, but from an athletic standpoint he's precisely what Carolina need. He ran a 4.74 at the combine, plenty fast enough for the NFL and offers Newton an end zone target who can win in jump ball situations. Not many other options can offer that.

There's plenty of time to discuss who Carolina could take at No. 28, but don't sleep on the TEs. Adding a second would immediately make Newton's life easier in a variety of ways, so start watching that film.

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