Carolina Panthers: The Need for a Playmaker

After significant regression during the 2016 season, the Carolina Panthers offense is in need of an evolution, which includes a playmaking receiver for Cam Newton.

After a full season of watching from the sideline, Kelvin Benjamin’s return to the Carolina Panthers offense wasn’t anything like fans or the team anticipated. The preseason narrative of a 15-1 team welcoming back their No. 1 receiver was supposed to push this team over the top never played out. Instead, the offense was a sputtering mess and a shell of what it was in 2015.

At 26 years of age, it may be time to accept that Benjamin is what he is, flaws and all. He showed untimely concentration lapses and a penchant for not using his greatest asset (size) to assert his dominance. Compounded with his inability to finish routes and separate, this all raises major question marks about whether he is truly a No. 1 receiver. It’s too early to throw in the towel, but it doesn’t seem he’ll become the all-world receiver he once looked like as a rookie.

The rest of the receiving group is nothing to write home about, with Ted Ginn still providing the largest game-breaking threat of the bunch. It goes without saying that you don’t want 31-year-old Ginn providing the No. 1 big play threat for your offense, as nice of a player as he’s been in Carolina. Devin Funchess has shown flashes and still has a nice ceiling, but is criminally underused in Mike Shula’s offense and fits much of the same mold as Benjamin. This receiving corps is in dire need of a game-changer, and more importantly, one unlike the targets they currently have.

While many don’t project the Panthers using the eighth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on a receiving target, it’s an idea that I believe will only gain steam during the draft process. In the 2016 draft, the team had visits of some sort with Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard, and Tyler Boyd, all of them taken in the first 55 picks. Lucky for Carolina, there is a player that is both highly versatile and likely to become the catalyst for whichever receiving core he may end up joining.

That player is Corey Davis of Western Michigan, someone that could fill multiple roles instantaneously for the Panthers offense. Whether lined up in the slot or split wide, Davis gains huge separation and has fantastic ability after the catch, two traits sorely lacking from the current crop of wideouts.

It’s hugely evident that Newton needs help at offensive tackle, but the problem with that is the lack of talent at their draft position. The Panthers may turn to the next best option, Davis, a player that would provide Newton with large, uncontested throwing windows and give him additional help with the ball in his hands. This could provide huge benefits for an offense reliant on long developing routes, giving a safety valve option that would surely help in preventing some of the excessive hits that Newton has taken.

Shortly after the end of their disappointing season, Ron Rivera emphasized the need for his offense to evolve along with Cam Newton. At pick No. 8, both running backs and the pair of elite safeties are sure to be in play. However, if Davis makes it that far on draft night, it would be difficult passing on such a talent. What better way to evolve an offense in desperate need of a jump start?

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