INDIANAPOLIS – The Panthers haven't hid their interest in wide receivers and offensive tackles. Fortunately for general manager Dave Gettleman, those are two of the position groups he believes offer the most quality depth in this year's draft class.
"I think the tackle group is deep," Gettleman said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "What's nice about the tackle group is there is depth throughout. Last year you had the top five, but there wasn't that lengthy list of depth."
Gettleman thinks this class features a variety of lineman capable of playing left tackle. Whether any of them are still available when the Panthers select in the first round remains to be seen.
"There are a number of left tackle prospects," Gettleman said. "People have a picture in their head of what a left tackle should look like, but they are not all the same. The bottom line is can he be a productive player out there? There are no style points. Your block isn't better because you did it pretty."
Rookie wide receivers were in style last season, with a large number of them – like Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin – making immediate impacts. Once again, the wide receiver class offers plenty of intriguing talent.
"It's a function of the college game," Gettleman said. "It's pretty darn deep – all shapes and sizes. Whatever you are looking for you should be able to find, and you are going to get value."
COMBINE BENEFITS: When it comes to the Combine, Gettleman appreciates two elements in particular.
One is the interview process, when Gettleman and members of the coaching and scouting staffs get 15 minutes to talk privately with prospects. The time is brief but valuable, and the Panthers want to get a feel for the player's football IQ.
"I love the interview process," Gettleman said. "Our interview process is strictly football oriented. We don't try to get into his head (with personal questions) or whatever. You've only got 15 minutes. Coaches have a script, and we want to see what he knows or what he doesn't know and what he can spit back to us."
Added head coach Ron Rivera: "Everybody gets the tape and the film, but you get them into the room and there are specific questions you get to ask about things that you do to draw out their football acumen."
In recent years, the Panthers haven't been reluctant to rely on rookies in significant roles. But the only way young players can see the field early is if they can grasp the scheme quickly.
"When you draft a guy, you've got to know how quickly this guy is going to be able to get on the field," Gettleman said. "If we can't get him on the field, what's the point? That's something we really focus on.
"Some of it is just instinct."
The on-field drills at the Combine are highly publicized, but they can be dangerous for talent evaluators. When the college football season ends, prospects participate in intensive training regiments geared for success in the various drills. But non-contact agility drills are a lot different than the action between the lines in the NFL.
"There are a lot of workout wonders, a lot of guys that come here and blow it up," Gettleman said. "But the game is played on grass and in pads. Is it something you factor in? Absolutely. You think about it."
As a result, Gettleman likes that the prospects in Indianapolis compete together in the same environment, whereas Pro Day workout settings on their college campuses vary greatly across the country.
"Everyone is on an even field," Gettleman said. "Not at his school or their school or different surfaces. It's an even playing field, and that's what I like about it."
STEERING CLEAR: Seemingly every draft class includes a few players that fit the following description: character concerns with immense talent.
Gettleman offered his take on such prospects.
"Who wants a ticking time bomb?" Gettleman said. "Every organization I've ever been with has gone into the draft, and you talk about the background stuff, and they'll stay away from the guys with character issues and the potential to continue those character issues. This is too hard to have to worry about that."