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Big second-day trade ultimately makes sense for Panthers

5/2/2015
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Journey To The Draft: Devin Funchess

Mel Kiper Jr. breaks down some of the strengths and weaknesses of Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the Carolina Panthers, Day 2 of the NFL draft was all about numbers.

They traded to St. Louis their picks in the second (57), third (89) and sixth (201) rounds to move up 16 spots to No. 41 to draft Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess.

They did this because two of the five players they had slated as second-round picks were off the board, and six teams ahead of them were in the market for a wide receiver.

They did this because had they kept all nine of their draft picks, in the words of general manager Dave Gettleman, it would have been "dicey" for all to make the final 53-man roster.

They did this because they believe the 4.75 40 time Funchess ran at the NFL combine was misleading and he is closer to the 4.47 time he posted at his pro day.

They did this because Gettleman loves big receivers, and now he can put two 6-foot-5 specimens on the field in Funchess and 2014 first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin.

Throw in Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen (6-foot-5), backup tight end Ed Dickson (6-foot-4) and backup wide receiver Stephen Hill (6-foot-4), and the Panthers have enough size for a formidable basketball team.

Size creates mismatches. The Panthers can create a lot of mismatches with the twin towers of Benjamin and Funchess.

"Teams are going to have to look at that and try to find out the best way to match up with our wide receivers," coach Ron Rivera said.

That should help the running game. Opponents won’t be able to stack eight in the box as often occurred the past season. If they do, the mismatches are more glaring.

Fewer in the box will make it easier for the line to protect quarterback Cam Newton. That makes not drafting an offensive tackle easier to explain.

Big wide receivers also tend to block big.

Funchess wasn't a big touchdown-maker, like many of the receivers who went ahead of him. He had only four scores the past season. Ohio State's Devin Smith, who went to the New York Jets at No. 37, had 12.

Funchess also lacks the elite speed of Smith and others. Some teams had him a better fit as a tight end.

But the Panthers aren't without speed. They added Ted Ginn Jr. during the offseason, and 2014 undrafted rookie Philly Brown is back. Both are burners.

So is Hill, if he can resurrect his career after a year on the practice squad.

Many of those who said Washington outside linebacker Shaq Thompson was a reach for Carolina in the first round at No. 25 will say the same about the trade to get Funchess.

But for many reasons, it makes sense.

"The board was really getting picked clean," Gettleman said. "Very frankly, we were concerned about where we were."

Again, it came down to numbers. The way the draft board fell after Funchess supports that. Twenty-seven picks passed before another wide receiver was selected. But ultimately, the only number that will matter is the wins Carolina gets this season.

"I told you guys, offense scores points, defense wins championships," Gettleman said as he explained his first two picks. "I think we've made two quality strides in that area."