General manager Dave Gettleman loves the instincts and aggressiveness of cornerback Zack Sanchez, the Panthers' fifth-round draft pick, but Gettleman doesn't mind admitting that Sanchez's approach can be risky.
Gettleman, like Sanchez's position coach at Oklahoma, thinks it's well worth the tradeoff.
"What can I tell ya?" Gettleman said. "Sometimes I drink a milkshake."
Oklahoma defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks chuckled at Gettleman's joke about using poor judgement at times. Gettleman clearly believes the positives that Sanchez brings outweigh any negatives, and Cooks can vouch for that firsthand.
"When you have a guy like that who's not afraid to take those chances, the repercussion is that he might get beat on a double move, he might give up some big plays," Cooks said in a phone interview. "But we felt like the production he was going to give us on the positive side outweighed the ones that we would have to suffer on the negative, and it held true.
"Obviously as a coach, you're always talking about protecting against the deep balls, so it is a delicate balance. But if you coach him out of that, you've got a whole different player."
Cooks, a fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 1998 who has coached on the defensive side of the ball for more than a decade, said he learned long ago the cost of taking a player's strength away, in the case of Sanzhez "being aggressive and using his instincts and anticipation."
Cooks saw what Sanzhez was capable of from the opposite sideline in 2013 when, as co-defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, he heard offensive coaches discussing an upcoming game against the Sooners.
"I was at Notre Dame before I went to Oklahoma, and I knew that they had a future NFL player just because of how our offense was talking about No. 15," Cooks said. "All they talked about was his ability to make plays and his ball skills.
"My first opportunity to watch him in the first practice in spring ball, everything that I had heard was on point."
Sanchez was just a redshirt freshman in 2013, when he picked off two passes and led Oklahoma with 13 passes defensed. The passes defensed turned into interceptions in 2014, when he ranked ninth in the nation with six.
Last season, Cooks' first with the Sooners, Sanchez tied for fifth in the nation with seven interceptions.
Upon his arrival, Cooks quickly learned that it wasn't just athletic ability and aggression that fueled Sanchez.
"One thing that people don't really know about him is that, yes, he gives up some plays and he makes a lot of plays, but along the way he's going to study his tail off," Cooks said. "He understands when the play is coming, recognizes wide receiver splits – all the things that you try to beat into guys about film study. He is in there night and day, and it showed up on Saturdays.
"He's very calm, very patient, and he takes his chances based on what he saw on tape throughout the week. I would say he's probably 80-20 on being right. Twenty percent, you've got to live with."
Cooks sees Sanchez continuing to make plays with the Panthers, where he could play some nickel corner. Sanchez seems to have the right makeup and personality for it, and Cooks looks forward to seeing how Sanchez develops on the pro level.
"Initially, you'll probably get the opposite of what you see on the field – a reserved young man coming in and hearing and seeing everything but maybe not saying a whole bunch," Cooks said. "But once he gets comfortable with the players and coaches, they're going to see that gunslinger personality come out.
"Once you get him going, it's going to be like, 'Zack, you've got to shut up for a little bit.' He's got a great personality, comes from a great family. I think the fans will be pleased with what they get."
View photos of the Panthers' fifth-round draft choice, Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez.