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Wideouts receive attention at Combine

Posted Feb 22, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – Every day is a hectic day around the media room at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Friday tends to be even a little more fast-paced.

That's what happens when prospects that routinely record sub-4.5-second times in the 40-yard dash enter the room.

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers made the rounds with the media Friday, position groups that create quite a buzz for obvious reasons.

The Panthers are conducting interviews of their own with skill position players, though they already have their franchise quarterback as well as arguably more depth of talent at running back than any other NFL team.

That leaves wide receiver, a position the Panthers could address at the NFL Draft in two months.

"I don't know, I think Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are pretty darn good,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. "It's funny, I learned a great lesson from Marv Levy when I was in Buffalo. He said, ‘Oftentimes the answer is on your roster.' ”

Smith certainly is an answer, such a definitive one in fact that his presence sometimes leads to questions about what the team is doing at the spot opposite him. LaFell has been that man the past two seasons and has continued to trend upward.

"Brandon has taken a big step, and he'll continue to grow as a football player,” head coach Ron Rivera said. "Has he arrived? Not yet. But can he get better and will he get better? I think he will.”

After Smith and LaFell, the Panthers have some decisions to make. Louis Murphy, the team's No. 3 receiver last season, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards have shown flashes the last two years, David Gettis hasn't been healthy the last two years, and 2012 practice squad player Lamont Bryant is an intriguing prospect at 6-5, 225 pounds.

Carolina did address the position in last year's draft by taking Joe Adams in the fourth round, but the Panthers picked him first and foremost to be a return man. That could change as Adams evolves.

"Does he have a spot in the offense? Absolutely, but he's got to earn it,” Rivera said. "If you get him the ball in his hands in traffic, he can make people miss.”

If the Panthers did decide to select a wide receiver in the first round of the April draft, it's possible that every single one will still be on the board when they pick at No. 14. Two of the leading candidates to be the first receiver drafted have ties to the Carolinas: Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, a native of Rock Hill, S.C., and California receiver Keenan Allen, a native of Greensboro, N.C.

"When I was little, I always thought about playing for the Panthers,” Patterson said. "My mama talks about that all the time. If I could be that close to home, I know she'd be at every game.”

As for Patterson's chances of being the first receiver taken?

"There are rumors floating around that I can be,” he said. "I hope this weekend I can show that I can be that.”

You can be sure the Panthers will be watching, regardless of whether the receiver position ends up playing into their draft plans.

"Obviously,” Gettleman said, "the more depth you have, the better off you're going to be.”

AS FOR THE QUARTERBACKS

The Panthers do have a decision to make regarding their backup quarterback. Derek Anderson can become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins in less than a month.

"We're going to go through that process,” Rivera said. "We've got until March 12 to start making our decisions.”

All of the quarterbacks at the combine aspire to be starters in the NFL, but it's simply not possible. It is possible that the Panthers could look to add one in the draft, especially if Anderson isn't re-signed.



AS FOR THE RUNNING BACKS


The Panthers aren't likely to be in the market for a running back at the draft, but one back attending the combine that every NFL team has to admire is Marcus Lattimore. The South Carolina product is ahead of schedule but still has a tough road ahead of him in his recovery from a horrific knee injury suffered in October.

There's now no telling where Lattimore, considered an elite back before the injury, will go in the draft.

"At this point it doesn't even matter where I get drafted because I'm going to go in there and work hard, just do what I've been doing my whole career,” Lattimore said. "If I get a chance to play this year, I'm going to make the most of it. I feel like I will.

"It's a blessing to be here. I'm not taking this opportunity for granted. I think about guys that are less fortunate than me, guys that would kill to be in my shoes right now, even with the injury.”