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Notes from the combine

I’ve been watching the NFL Combine for the past two days, and I must say that there are a lot of interesting players out there who could make the Panthers a better football team down the road.

Of course, the Panthers aren’t going to draft guys just because they’re on the board when it comes time for them to pick, but they will look at a few key positions: WR, DL, QB, & TE. The most pressing needs (at least in my opinion) are at WR and DL (particularly DE). Honestly, I can picture the Panthers drafting at least two receivers in the draft, and they may even use their first two picks on receivers (assuming they don’t sign any free agents).

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you would know that recently I have campaigned for the team to draft former Cincinnati Bearcat WR Mardy Gilyard, because I think that his receiving ability is further enhanced by his contributions in the return game, and the Panthers could use a guy to return kicks – something that has been a weakness in recent years.

Below are Gilyard’s strengths and weaknesses, according to NFL.com’s scouts. (emphasis and commentary mine)

Strengths:

Gilyard is a very athletic prospect who was extremely productive in college. Is a terror in the open field with the ball in his hands after catch. Has the quickness and burst to separate from defenders when running short to intermediate routes. Is a high-character guy on the field.

Weaknesses:

Gilyard has adequate height but lacks the bulk you like to see in a starting receiver and isn’t a good blocker. Is quicker than fast and top end speed is only adequate – won’t blow by many pro DB’s. Hands are inconsistent. Makes too many body catches. (His quickness makes up for his lack of pure speed.)

Gilyard didn’t have a blazing 40 speed (4.51 unofficially, according to NFLN*), but his calling card isn’t his straight-line speed. His ability to get a quick start and make quick cuts in his routes have been the selling points for him, and he has been called “quicker than fast” by several of the analysts at the combine. He’s not going to run away from anyone, but if he has the ability to make a cornerback bite on a fake and get that extra step downfield, then straight-line speed won’t really make that much of a difference.

After seeing the few drills he has run at the combine, I still like Gilyard. I still think that he would be a great fit for the Panthers, and I haven’t seen any reason for the team to not consider adding him to the roster.

That is of course if no one else nabs him first.

* – NFL Network has been clocking 40 times unofficially for all the combine participants, and based on their commentary they have been pretty close to the official times. But, I don’t know the official times so I’m not sure how accurate they’ve been.

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