Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/24/15
For the first time in fourteen seasons the Carolina Panthers will take the field without wide receiver Steve Smith, the all-time team leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, to name just a few records. Smith, now with the Baltimore Ravens, was a Pro-Bowl player his first season with the Panthers after being taken 74th overall in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft. Smith’s release set the tone for the wide receiving corps as the team only retained one of their top four wide receivers from 2013, tight end Greg Olsen. It could be argued that Carolina is a run-first team, but you wouldn’t have much of an argument. Despite having a two-headed running back monster in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, guided by 2013 Pro-Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert, the Panthers were one of the worst running teams in the league. Stewart was injured most of the year, but regardless of injuries, a duo of Williams and Tolbert should have been enough to keep Carolina out of the bottom of the league in attempts (352), yards (1,391) and touchdowns (4). The highest ranking rushing metric the Panthers boasted was a mediocre 4.0 yards per attempt average, which could be completely attributed to Tolbert if one were so inclined. Additionally, the Panthers five rushing fumbles came with the fewest attempts in the league, which makes them one of the more fumble-prone teams in the NFL. Running back DeAngelo Williams anchored the Panther’s mediocre run game in 2013. But before you assume the Panthers must suddenly be a pass-first team in the wake of quarterback Cam Newton’s blossoming super stardom, be warned: it doesn’t get much better in the air. The Carolina Panthers were fourth in the league in receptions in 2013 (375) yet 22nd in receiving yards (3,853), for one of the worst averages in the league (10.3). The Panthers didn’t rank higher than 22nd in any other receiving statistic last season. Also alarming is the Panthers big play ability. In passing or rushing plays over 20 and/or 40 yards Carolina ranks in the bottom third of the league and only had five plays over 40 yards passing or rushing. In other words, not only do the Carolina Panthers need help, they need big play help. Suddenly the business aspect of the Steve Smith situation becomes even more apparent considering Smith was the team’s best option for either plays or big plays. Despite the “success” the team enjoyed in the air relative to the ground, the Panthers clearly saw the situation slightly differently as they cleaned house with the receiving corps, but retained Carolina’s backfield heading into next season. Considering the depth at running back and Smith’s age, the Panthers made the right choice. Ted Ginn Jr., a free agent at the end of the 2013 season and now with the Arizona Cardinals, was a very serviceable wide receiver and excellent returner, but the price tag was too high and his skill set too untested to make Ginn Jr. the Panther’s number one receiver heading into 2014. On the other hand, Brandon LaFell was also a very serviceable receiver, but his numbers and inconsistency were enough for the team to let him sign with the New England Patriots. The Carolina Panthers will look to replace Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell and improve upon 2013 with talented young wide receivers via the upcoming draft. The Panthers decided to clean house with their wide receivers and sought help elsewhere, signing Jerricho Cotchery from the Pittsburgh Steelers; Cotchery was excellent in the slot for Pittsburgh last season and scored more touchdowns than Smith and LaFell combined (10) in 2013. Despite the signing of Cotchery it’s clear the Carolina Panthers will be drafting a wide receiver in the 2014 NFL draft, and as has been suggested before on isportsweb.com, the Panthers should move up in the draft to do so, essentially securing one of the many talented wide receivers in the upcoming draft. Whether the Carolina Panthers end up drafting a lineman, a defensive back, or a wide receiver, per the recent suggestions of general manager David Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera, the choice should be rewarded immediately as this is one of the strongest draft classes on paper in years. However, if the Panthers want to make an immediate impact on offense, the choice is clear. The offensive line is solid with many returning starters from 2013 and resigned key reserves. The secondary is in decent shape with the return of Charles Godfrey and the signing of Roman Harper and Antoine Cason. Considering the Panther’s front seven, the secondary should be the least of the team’s worries. What does worry the Panthers is their offensive production, especially in the air, and that can be rectified instantly in the upcoming draft; Carolina couldn’t have picked a better time for such a need. Click here for more Carolina Panthers news, rumors and opinion. The post Carolina Panthers: Why drafting a wide receiver is key appeared first on isportsweb.
PLAYERS: Greg Olsen
TEAMS: Carolina Panthers
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Marshawn Lynch on final SB play: 'I was expecting the ball'

Report: Rangers acquire Keith Yandle from Coyotes

Report: Bucs to keep Vincent Jackson under current contract

Twins to limit players' smartphone use on game days

Shane Battier: Carmelo Anthony is not that tough to guard

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ronda Rousey would be 'happy' to fight Cat Zingano again

Markieff Morris calls out Suns fans after loss

Cowboys to let DeMarco Murray test free agency?

Brock Lesnar attends UFC 184, keeps MMA rumors alive

Dick Vitale will not call Duke-UNC rematch either

PHOTO: Auburn coaches, players wear ribbons for Mason

Jim Harbaugh tells Madonna he respects her toughness

Are the Oakland Raiders finally trending up?

Durant blasts Instagram hater for Westbrook comment

Three potential big signings the Steelers could make

Kevin Garnett buys 1,000 tickets for Timberwolves fans

Michigan fan has incredible Charles Woodson tattoo

WATCH: NIU C brings down basket on dunk

McCown plans to embrace mentoring role with Manziel

Chris Sale out three weeks with foot injury

NHL analyst calls out media over Blackhawks report

Alabama recruits aim to bring the dynasty back

WATCH: Jon Jones, Rumble Johnson prank Dana White

Panthers News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Lynch: 'I was expecting the ball'

Report: Rangers get Yandle from Coyotes

Harbaugh respects Madonna's grit

Twins to limit game day cell phone use

Kevin Durant blasts hater on Instagram

KG buys 1,000 tickets for T-Wolves fans

Markieff Morris calls out Suns fans

Cowboys letting Murray test market?

Brock Lesnar attends UFC 184

Rousey beats Zingano in 14 seconds

Anthony Mason: The most 'New York' of the 90's Knicks

Could Eagles release LeSean McCoy?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.