Panthers trade 3 picks to draft Michigan receiver Funchess
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers added another big target in the passing game for Cam Newton.
The Panthers traded up Friday night to select Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess in the second round of the NFL draft.
The Panthers surrendered their second round (57th), third round (89th) and sixth round (201st) picks to move up 16 spots in the second round to take the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Funchess 41st overall.
Funchess gives the Panthers another tall, physical wide receiver to pair with Kelvin Benjamin, last year's first-round draft pick.
''Like I've said before, you can't coach size,'' Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said, stealing a line from last year when the team selected the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Benjamin. ''Devin plays fast and he's a smooth, fluid big man. And he's a very smart kid. He knows all three (wide receiver) positions and knew the blocking schemes.''
The Panthers believe Funchess has a huge upside and will create mismatches against opposing defenses, particularly when paired with Benjamin and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen.
Coach Ron Rivera said there were some initial concerns about Funchess' speed after he ran a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. But Funchess worked to dispel some of those concerns by running a 4.47 at Michigan's pro day workout.
All of that doesn't concern Funchess.
''My game speed is faster than my 40-yard dash time,'' Funchess said.
Funchess is coming off a productive season for the Wolverines, catching 62 passes for 733 yards and four touchdowns, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. He had seven grabs against national champion Ohio State for 108 yards after moving over from playing tight end in 2013.
Funchess said he didn't feel like any other wide receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine had his skill set.
''Most of the wideouts can only play one (wide receiver) position,'' Funchess said. ''I can play them all.''
The Panthers turned to the offensive side of the ball on Friday night after selecting linebacker Shaq Thompson from Washington with the 25th overall pick.
Carolina struggled scoring points in 2014, finishing 19th in the league. That prompted Gettleman to bring back free agent wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., an explosive player in 2013 who left to play for the Arizona Cardinals last season. When the Cardinals released Ginn earlier this offseason the Panthers jumped at the chance to bring him back.
But they still wanted more.
''He's a matchup issue,'' Gettleman said. ''And just like with Shaq, there is a big upside for this kid.''
Funchess, who declared eligible for the draft after his junior season, is expected to compete with the Jerricho Cotchery for a starting job opposite Benjamin. Ginn is expected to be the team's third receiver with Philly Brown getting some time, too.
''It will be interesting to see the combinations we can use on offense,'' Rivera said.
Gettleman said at a press conference Thursday night he had no intentions of trading up in the second round. But the third-year GM abruptly changed his mind after a group of five players the team began flying off the board.
''The board was really getting picked clean,'' Gettleman said. ''. Very frankly, we were concerned about sitting where we were. We had five players up there that we just didn't know if any of them would be there'' at No. 57.
The Panthers had a first-round grade on Funchess, Rivera said.
Funchess has been on Carolina's radar for quite some time. Rivera said there was some initial concerns over his Funchess' speed, but said he was still a vertical threat in games.
''When you watch the game tape you see a couple of things that tell you this kid is a little different,'' Rivera said. ''He makes catches in traffic. He presents a big target.''
Funchess is excited to play with Newton.
He has been following the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback's career since he first started playing college football at Florida. Newton later attended Blinn College before transferring to Auburn where he led the Tigers to a national championship and went on to become the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.
''I'm a big fan of his,'' Funchess said.
The Panthers still have five picks left in the draft on Saturday - one in the fourth round, three in the fifth and one in the seventh.
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