Panthers’ need for speed at WR could be addressed in early rounds

If the Panthers choose to add a speedy wide receiver early in the draft, Arizona State's Jaelen Strong or Ohio State's Devin Smith could be the guy.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s widely known that the Carolina Panthers are in dire need of a few positions, with one of those being wide receiver. The question is whether or not the Panthers will address that receiver issue via free agency, the draft or both.

The strong likelihood is that Carolina will do it by both avenues.

Many believe the Panthers will select a wideout either in the first round with the 25th-overall pick, or in the second round with the 57th selection. With Carolina being one of the slowest teams in the NFL, especially at receiver, drafting a speedy player would make the most sense, though there is the possibility that situation will be addressed in free agency.

That would allow Carolina to take the best receiver regardless of their 40 time. Should they do so, here are the likely list of prospects that they will have from which to choose:

Jaelen Strong — Arizona State, 6-2, 217 pounds, 4.44 40-yard-dash

If the Panthers draft a receiver in the first round for the second straight year, Strong seems a good possibility. He offers nice size and very good speed. He could immediately be the deep threat Carolina needs so desperately. He has a lot to improve on in his route running, but that’s something that can always be addressed.

Devin Smith –€“ Ohio State, 6-0, 196 pounds, 4.42 40-yard-dash

This may be the player that fits perfectly into Carolina’s mindset. Smith is a polished route runner and has very good speed. He was extremely durable with the Buckeyes, having never missed a game. His only downside is he lacks physicality. He’s not fond of going over the middle or holding and sustaining blocks.

Dorial Green-Beckham –€“ Missouri, 6-5, 237 pounds, 4.49 40-yard dash

Green-Beckham may be the most physically talented receiver in the draft. He’s strong, huge and fast. But, he also has the most off-the-field issues of all the wideouts, too. He was arrested twice for marijuana possession while at Missouri, and then was ultimately kicked off the team after he allegedly forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female down some stairs. He transferred to Oklahoma, but the NCAA refused to let him play. Given Carolina’s history with Greg Hardy, it’s doubtful Green-Beckham would be selected.

Devin Funchess — Michigan, 6-4, 232 pounds, 4.7 40-yard dash

He seems unlikely to be taken by Carolina, but could be a possibility should the Panthers address the speed matter in free agency. Funchess has decent speed for his size, but he is a tad lumbering. He runs good routes, is a solid blocker, but is more of a possession receiver. He is a lot like current Carolina receiver Kelvin Benjamin in that he’s not a downfield threat or a game breaker.

Nelson Agholor –€“ USC, 6-0, 198 pounds, 4.42 40-yard-dash

Agholor seems like a good possibility should the Panthers opt to draft a receiver in the second round; providing the previous receivers mentioned have all be taken. Agholor has very good speed, is from a top-notch program, but he is a little undersized. His biggest downside is he has suffered through cases of the drops and the Panthers already have that in Benjamin.

Breshad Perriman –€“ Central Florida, 6-2, 212 pounds, no 40 time

Perriman, son of long-time Lions receiver Brett Perriman, has pretty good speed and decent size, but he drops far too many easy passes. However, he still has very good big-play skills and capability, which is exactly what the Panthers need. He’s a solid blocker and has the pedigree and knowledge of what it takes to be a good receiver. This is also an option. There are many different thoughts about where Perriman may be drafted. Some think he could go as high as the first round or as low as the third round.

Phillip Dorsett –€“ Miami, Fla., 5-10, 185 pounds, 4.33 40-yard-dash

Dorsett really helped his stock by having a great week at the Senior Bowl. He has blazing speed, but he is small. He seems to fit the prototypical slot receiver position. He’s been injured in the past and because of his size, his durability will always be a worry. He has some Steve Smith in him, meaning that he has a chip on his shoulder and isn’t afraid to get physical with bigger defensive backs. He has big-play ability and he appears to be another strong candidate for the Panthers.

Follow Brett Jensen on Twitter: @Brett_Jensen