- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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A closer look at the areas the Carolina Panthers could address in the draft. We’ll look today at the wide receivers, who are scheduled to work out Saturday in Indianapolis.
Position of need: The Panthers will be looking for a speed receiver to play opposite Kelvin Benjamin, last year’s first-round pick. Undrafted rookie Philly Brown filled that role to a degree late last season, but there’s always room for improvement, particularly if that player also could fill a need as a kick returner. Brown didn’t. As much as quarterback Cam Newton needs a left tackle to protect him, he also needs more talented and reliable receivers in order to open up the offense. That this again is a deep draft at receiver could help fill that need. That the Panthers have Brown makes it less a sense of urgency to get that player in the first round unless the right player is there.
Three players the Panthers could target in the draft:
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State: Definitely a dynamic player who can blow the top off of defenses with his speed. He’s known for getting behind the secondary and making big plays, sometimes of the one-handed variety. He had only 33 catches this past season, but for 931 yards – an amazing 28.2 yards per catch -- and 12 touchdowns. He also was a gunner in college, so he would fill another need on special teams that struggled in 2014.
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn: He has been clocked in the 4.3-second range, so he definitely has the speed to stretch the field. Cam Newton definitely would like to add a player from the school he led to the 2010 national championship to the roster. The knock on Coates is he’s shown limited ability as a route-runner and he hasn’t been consistent catching. Pairing him with Carolina wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl would be a benefit.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami: At 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds, Dorsett is built in the mold of Steve Smith, Carolina’s all-time leading receiver. He has elite speed – maybe the fastest in Indy, reportedly shooting for 4.29 seconds in the 40 at the combine -- excels at creating separation and is willing to fight for extra yards. He caught 36 passes for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, so you can see he’s a home-run threat.