Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, who has made his affinity for large linemen well known, is building a big receiving corps, as well.
But he had to make a big move up in the draft to do so.
The Panthers pulled off a second-day trade Friday, moving up 16 spots in the second round to grab Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess with the 41st pick of the NFL draft.
For the second night in a row, the Panthers took a player most experts believe doesn’t have a true position.
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Funchess, 6-4 and 232 pounds, has good size. But when he ran the 40 in 4.70 seconds at the scouting combine in February, some scouts wondered if he might be better off playing tight end.
Gettleman, who spent nearly 25 years as a scout before becoming the Panthers’ general manager, said Funchess is fast enough. Funchess ran a 4.47 at Michigan’s pro day this spring after the combine.
“People are going to talk about his 40-yard time,” Gettleman said. “The kid plays fast.”
Several analysts called Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, the Panthers’ first-round pick, a reach because they’re not sure if he’s a linebacker or a safety.
But Gettleman said there should be no confusion about where Thompson and Funchess will play.
“Shaq’s a linebacker; this kid’s a wide receiver,” Gettleman said.
A night after Gettleman said he didn’t expect to trade up during the first three rounds, the Panthers gave St. Louis their 57th (second round), 89th (third) and 201st (sixth) picks to move up for Funchess.
Gettleman said the Panthers counted six teams ahead of them at 57 that had a need for a wide receiver. As it turns out, 27 picks were made after Funchess before another receiver was taken – Tyler Lockett by Seattle at No. 69.
Funchess was the Panthers’ only pick Friday as a result of the trade with the Rams. They have five picks Saturday, including three in the fifth round.
The Panthers have not drafted a tackle since Gettleman arrived three years ago, although he did not rule out the possibility in one of Saturday’s later rounds.
“There’s still some guys up there that are very interesting,” he said. “We’ve just got to see how it falls.”
The Panthers could have one of the tallest receiving tandems in the NFL. Funchess, who caught 62 passes for 733 yards and four touchdowns last season at Michigan, joins last year’s first-round pick, Kelvin Benjamin, who is 6-5 and 240 pounds.
Gettleman noted after the Panthers drafted Funchess, the Falcons took LSU cornerback Jalen Collins, who is 6-1 and 203 pounds, with the next pick.
“He’s a matchup issue,” Gettleman said of Funchess.
Like everyone else, Panthers coach Ron Rivera heard the concerns about Funchess’ speed. Then Rivera watched tape and saw Funchess going over the middle, as well as beating defensive backs deep.
“You see a couple things that tell you this kid is a little bit different. He makes catches in traffic. He presents a big target in traffic and takes a lot of big shots, similar to what Kelvin does,” Rivera said. “And then you watch him go vertical, which was surprising. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I thought people talked about he was not a vertical threat.’ He was a vertical threat.”
Rivera said the potential Benjamin-Funchess pairing reminds him of the Chargers’ big receiver tandem of Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson when Rivera was in San Diego.
Funchess, who is from Farmington Hills, Mich., was asked about the Twin Tower receiving tandem he and Benjamin could form.
“It’s not just him. It’s all the other wide receivers that are there, too,” said Funchess, who also mentioned Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery and Corey Brown.
“I’m just ready to work with all of them and learn from them, do the techniques and get NFL-ready.”
More than his pro day time, Funchess said he believes his game film answered scouts’ questions about his speed.
“Everybody watched the tape,” Funchess said. “I let my actions speak louder than words.”
Funchess struggled with dropped passes during his collegiate career. But he believes he brings a unique skill set to the NFL, one missing among the other wideouts in the draft.
Asked if there were any receivers with his combination of size and speed, Funchess said: “I was the only one, I guess, because of what I can do. Most of the wideouts can just play one position. I can play it all.”
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