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Carolina Panthers

Combine notebook: WRs take the stage and state their case as the best

Adonai Mitchell game photo

INDIANAPOLIS—"This class, I feel like, is one of the best classes in the history of the league."

Tez Walker might have been slightly hyperbolic at the moment, but history has a chance to prove him right. The Charlottean and North Carolina wide receiver is among many in a class that has stuffed the cupboard with dynamic pass-catching talent. Panthers' general manager Dan Morgan echoed the statement early in the week at the NFL Combine, noting that the wide receiver class is a particularly deep unit this year.

Those receivers took the stage on Friday to answer questions ahead of their Saturday workouts.

McConkey stands out by doing it all

Ladd McConkey is 6-0 and weighs 185 pounds. He holds two National Championships to his name and has enough of a drawl to make it clear he's from North Georgia. In other words, he's on the verge of being everyone's favorite slot receiver prospect this draft cycle.

The University of Georgia wide receiver has the makings to be one of the earliest pass catchers off the board. Injuries marred his final season at Georgia, but the 2022 season saw him bring in 58 receptions for 762 yards and seven touchdowns.

In 2023, he played the majority of his snaps on the outside, 79 percent, but he doesn't want those numbers to dictate what he does in the NFL.

"I feel like I'm a guy that can kind of play a little bit everywhere," McConkey said Friday. "I think I've had double the snaps outside that I did inside in college, but I feel comfortable in both positions. I think I can win on the outside and inside."

In such a deep class, McConkey could get overshadowed by the Marvin Harrison Jr. and Rome Odunze's of the world. But the instinct to cast him in shadow is what McConkey believes works in his favor, as it has since his days on the Georgia scout team.

"That first year, I was on the scout team, didn't play, and I think that made me a better player for sure. I got so many good reps against so many good players.

"I really think that when it comes to like competing I'm going to out compete anyone here; I'm out working anyone here. I mean, I think I can run routes. I can play on the outside, inside, special teams. I think I'm very versatile and can do a little bit of everything.

"Obviously, the guys in this draft class are ridiculous. We have some great receivers, but when it comes to doing a little bit of everything, I think I can stand up there with anyone."

McConkey has also made it known to teams he'd like to be a special teams returner in the league.

Ricky Pearsall

Pearsall equipped to work with any QB

Ricky Pearsall has seen a lot of different quarterbacks in his career. The five-year player began his college journey at Arizona State, playing with Jayden Daniels. He finished his final two years at Florida, playing with Anthony Richardson and Graham Mertz, among others.

As such, he feels ready to find a groove with any quarterback he steps on the field within the coming months.
"Just putting the time, the effort, and the work and getting to know your guys, I think, is really important," Pearsall said of establishing the relationship.

"Obviously, I had a new quarterback this last year too, so getting to know him on and off the field, spending a lot of time with him in the film room, really understanding each other and just communicating."

Pearsall was the Gators' leading receiver in eight of the 12 games in 2023. He finished his redshirt senior season with 65 receptions for 965 yards and four touchdowns. He also added two scores on the ground.

Adonai Mitchell Combine

Mitchell will let the tape speak for itself

Adonai Mitchell made a tough decision when he transferred from Georgia, after winning a National Championship, to Texas. Mitchell was a solid contributor for the Bulldogs, even as a freshman. But his daughter was back home in the Lone Star state, so that's where he also needed to be.

Mitchell's daughter turns three years old this summer, just old enough to start collecting memories of her dad in the NFL.

In his one season with the Longhorns, Mitchell pulled in 55 receptions for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns. The lanky receiver likes to bait defensive backs, content with only using his speed like an NOS release in a sports car.

"I like to change my pace in routes. I never run routes full speed," Mitchell revealed Friday. "That's just a part of my game that allows me to run routes for the whole drive. I mostly feel I'm in control when I'm running routes with the people I'm going against.

"I try to model my game after a lot of guys. There's a lot of guys out there doing really great things. Just trying to take every little nugget that I can out of one person's game and try to add it to my game. If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying. So, I definitely try to cheat a lot."

Even as a freshman on a loaded Georgia team, Mitchell notched 29 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns. An ankle injury derailed much of his sophomore season, but Mitchell is confident he has enough tape to make an impression. As such, he doesn't even want to use meetings this week to focus on football.

"Just living, speaking with them," Mitchell said when asked what he discussed with clubs. "The work on the field, that's going to show. A lot of things go without being said. Just the extra work I'm willing to put in, the extra studying I'm willing to put in, how I learn plays, who I am every day."

Stars pushed on their wildest thoughts

Teams are known for asking some strange questions in meetings with the prospects during Combine week. The goal is to not only get to know them better, but also see how they react to unusual situations. 

Some of those questions have filtered out to the media sessions this year, providing for some eyebrow raising but also funny moments. It does beg the question though, would you rather your star players be confident or realistic? Quirky or boring? A believer in birds or not? 

Here's a roundup of some of the best moments:

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