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After QB, Panthers target targets

Posted Apr 23, 2010

The Panthers could find many uses for Armanti Edwards, but will be a wide receiver first and foremost. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CHARLOTTE -- First the Panthers drafted a quarterback. Then they found some targets.

In what quickly became a hectic third round, the Panthers selected LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell with the 78th pick, then picked up the 89th selection from the New England Patriots and took Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards.

The cost for the pick that became Edwards was steep: a second-round pick in next year's draft. But general manager Marty Hurney thought it was a price worth paying for Edwards, who was a priority target of the Panthers' draft effort.

"We came into this draft hoping that we could find a way to get him," Hurney said. "You just get a feeling about him that gives you a feeling that he's going to be a very good player."

But he's a player who will be moving to a position he did not play during four storied years at Appalachian State, where quarterbacked led the Mountaineers to a pair of FCS national championships, four Southern Conference crowns and a 49-9 record that included the program's signature upset of Michigan in 2007.

"He obviously is a little bit of a projection," Hurney acknowledged, "but the versatility that he brings -- he is an athlete; he is a football player. He plays the game with an intensity and a toughness that you like. He's got speed and he's just a competitive, tough football player."

"It will be quite an adjustment getting the routes and cuts down," Edwards added, "but at the same time I have a little bit of knowledge from playing quarterback; I can get the coverages down pretty quickly."

While Edwards's potential versatility might prove helpful, Hurney made Edwards's position clear, stating, "He's a receiver," while adding that he could help in several areas.

First among those could be kickoffs and punts, where Edwards's speed -- purported as quick as 4.2 for the 40-yard dash -- could provide a jolt to the special teams. First, Edwards knows he must learn the task of returning.

"Plenty of teams talked with me about special teams, so I've been trying to practice catching kicks and punts," Edwards said. "Everybody likes my athletic ability, so if I can catch some kicks, I can do pretty well."

Noted Hurney: "The first time he caught punts and kickoffs was a day or two before his workout, but just watching him do it, you see that he's definitely got the ability to do those types of things.

"Time's going to tell with him, but you just get a feeling that he's got something (that will make him) a very good player."

Edwards's size -- 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds by his Combine measurements -- wasn't a concern for the Panthers, whose most prolific receiver this century (Steve Smith) stands two inches shorter, two pounds lighter and also was a third-round pick.

"(Edwards) is no smaller than a lot of guys who have gone in that area," Hurney said. "He plays the game big."

Edwards was watching the draft, but didn't think his phone would ring until Saturday morning.

"My agent told me anywhere from the third round to the fifth round, but my best chances were in the fourth round, so I was thinking the fourth," Edwards said. "I had Carolina in my mind, but my agent also told me the teams that showed the most interest more than likely weren't the teams that would get you."

Brandon LaFell had 11 touchdowns on 57 receptions last year. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In LaFell, the Panthers got a receiver who in some ways is Edwards' opposite; he is as polished and experienced at the position as Edwards is raw and new. LaFell started the last three years at LSU and had at least 50 catches in each of those seasons.

With 4.55 speed and a 6-foot-3, 206-pound frame, LaFell is a prototypical possession receiver who was particularly proficient in the red zone, scoring on eight of his 63 receptions as a junior and 11 of his 57 catches as a senior.

"He's a big receiver who plays fast," Hurney said. "He's played outside and inside; he has the ability to play 'Z' and in the slot. We think he's going to be a very good player."

Only Dwayne Bowe had more touchdown receptions at LSU than LaFell, who scored 25 times in four years.