Carolina Panthers: Trading Experience for Hope

The Carolina Panthers aren’t known for making a whole lot of noise in the off season. Being the second youngest team in the NFL, they tend to just sit back and prepare for the draft. That’s exactly what was expected in the 2014 off-season, but what Panther fan’s got was the complete opposite.

Carolina ended the 2013/14 season with a winning record and a trip to the playoffs, where they were embarrassed on their home turf against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a tough loss that will haunt the team and fans forever.
On the bright side, the Panthers finally had a solid foundation to build an excellent football team. However, due to egos, politics, and money, the Panthers successfully got rid of half of their starters, including the man who brought passion and fire to the offense, Steve Smith. Nobody will ever know the truth about what happened behind closed doors, but from a fan’s perspective, it looks as though the Panthers are giving up already on next season. With the export of players exceeding the amount of players imported, the Panthers need to really do their homework and make every pick in the 2014 NFL draft count. The Panthers need to focus on the later round picks to try and sniff out the talent that might be flying under the radar, such as a Michael Campanaro from Wake Forest. 

I still stand by my previous articles and think the Panthers need to draft Offensive Linemen back to back in the first two rounds. We need guys to protect Cam Newton and provide a safety net in case of injuries.

However, the Panthers desperately need of wide receivers. With Smith leaving the Queen City for Baltimore, Brandon Lafell going to New England, and Ted Ginn travelling to Arizona, the Carolina Panthers are left with a very inexperienced group of guys. Although the Panthers just signed veteran’s Jericho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood, the Panthers are still in need for more weapons.

Obviously, if Sammy Watkins is available when the Panthers take their 28th pick in first round, no questions draft and sign him, but won’t be the case. In the third round, I can see the Panthers considering a wide receiver. If he is still available, I like the kid out of South Carolina, Bruce Ellington. The later rounds are when it gets tricky and more important. Beyond the fourth round is when teams show who did their homework and try to draft the sleeper that will positively affect the team come the start of training camp and ultimately the season.

Someone the Panthers need to keep their eye on is a young man who played college football in the state of North Carolina, Campanaro. He made a name for himself over the last four years at Wake Forest. With such a deep draft class at receiver, there’s a real opportunity to grab a quality receiver in the later rounds.

Campanaro would be a great option in the 6th round for several reason.
First, he played at Wake Forest. I don’t personally have ties with the school, but his local ties in North Carolina make him a potential fan favorite. He is also a very versatile player. In high school, he was utilized more as a running back, so he knows how to run hard and look for holes. From 2010 to 2014 he returned kicks and punts for Wake Forest. Coaches have to love a player who can also play on special teams and make plays.

Should the Panthers pick him up late, he would be a perfect slot receiver and return specialist. He is 5’9” and weighs 192 pounds. He doesn’t carry a lot of height but he makes up for it with his vertical jumping 39inches, which was 7th highest in the wide receiver group at the combine. He also has a solid build and a strong frame. He was able to show it placing 4th amongst WR’s at the combine benching 225lbs 20 times.

His quickness and his ability to dodge traffic and find the quick hole in the defense would make him a solid slot receiver. He isn’t the fastest guy on the field running a 4.46 40 yard dash, but his quick feet help him beat defenders off the line. Seeing his college film, it was amazing how many times Campanaro was able to find the hole in the defense. He is smart player and it shows his last three years at Wake.

Campanaro also seems to have hands. He is able to go out, get it, and then bring the ball back into his body well. It’s important for a wide receiver to be able to catch the ball with the finger tips so the ball doesn’t bounce of the body.  Campanaro’s steady hand would make his a reliable guy at worst and reliable playmaker at best.

Added to his quickness, Campanaro is remarkably agile. If he catches the ball in space, he can run guys over, but more often just make them miss. He frequently dances around for extra yardage, but also isn’t afraid to tuck the ball barrel into the defense. In 2012 he had the lowest average yards per catch with 9.7 yards. Even in his worst year his average yards per catch would get the team inches from the first down marker.

With only one experienced wide receiver on the roster, Cotchery, every guy has a chance to make spot on the starting squad and we will see many chances fly their way.
Campanaro is a smart, young, athletic guy, who can make a difference on the Panthers roster at a small cost. The Panthers can still address their offensive line issues and pick up a solid wide receiver in the later rounds. I’d like to see Campanaro put on a Panther’s jersey come the start of training camp and make plays that help us forget about the old guys who left.

Follow Patrick on Twitter @SirNewton17