Panthers in need of a speed wide receiver after losing Ted Ginn Jr.

Replacing the speed that Ted Ginn Jr. provided might be difficult for the Panthers. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Let’s go back in time, say to last August, when Devin Funchess said the Carolina Panthers “have the best receiving corps in the National Football League."

It didn’t sound so outlandish at the moment.

The Panthers were coming off a 2015 season in which quarterback Cam Newton threw a career-best 35 touchdown passes en route to the league MVP award and the offense was ranked first in the NFL in scoring.

Carolina did this without No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp. Adding him to the mix, it was reasonable to think the Panthers had at least one of the best receiver groups in the league.

Funchess got no argument from wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, who before the 2015 season said: “We’ve got every weapon in our arsenal."

Now let’s return to the present.

The Carolina roster at wide receiver is somewhat a mess after losing Ted Ginn Jr. to NFC South rival New Orleans.

Benjamin (6-foot-5) and Funchess (6-4) are big receivers, but neither has proven to be elite. Both have proven to be inconsistent and at times have shown to lack the heart to be elite.

Ginn was the only experienced receiver with elite speed. He also could play the slot. But at age 31, he chose to chase the money one last time after catching 14 touchdown passes in the past two seasons.

The Panthers were so unconvinced that Philly Brown could be their speed guy that they didn’t tender an offer on the restricted free agent and at this point haven’t re-signed him.

So after Benjamin and Funchess you have Brenton Bersin and Damiere Byrd, both undrafted coming out of college. Bersin caught two passes last season and Byrd caught one, playing in only one game.

Oh, forgot: Keyarris Garrett is under contract. Undrafted out of Tulsa a year ago, he spent the season on the practice squad.

Now this group looks better when you throw Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen into the mix. But looking strictly at the wide receivers, this group is missing a lot of pieces.

It definitely doesn’t have the pieces to take the pressure off Newton to be a running threat and improve his career-low 52.9 completion percentage in 2016.

It doesn’t even have Proehl, who stepped down after the season to spend more time watching his sons play college football.

He’s been replaced by Lance Taylor, who spent the last three years coaching running backs at Stanford.

This definitely is a transition. It’s not as dire as it was in 2014, after Carolina released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, but it’s definitely a transition.

And it brings wide receiver back into the conversation for the No. 8 pick in the draft.

Clemson’s Mike Williams (6-4) is regarded as the top receiver, but he’s not a speed guy -- he ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.48 seconds. He’s more like Benjamin and Funchess -- but maybe better.

Washington’s John Ross (5-11) is the speed guy after setting a combine 40-yard dash record with a time of 4.22 seconds. His pro day is Saturday, and the Panthers are expected to attend.

There are other speed, slot receivers the Panthers might take a shot at in the lower rounds, but look for them first to address the position in free agency even though many of the top prospects already have signed elsewhere.

DeSean Jackson is headed to Tampa Bay, Torrey Smith to Philadelphia, Robert Woods to the Los Angeles Rams, Kenny Britt to Cleveland and Kenny Stills re-signed with Miami.

That’s why losing Ginn was a bigger blow than some might think.

The Panthers still could sign Victor Cruz, 30. He’s a more proven slot receiver with better hands than Ginn, who has a reputation for dropping passes. He just doesn’t have the speed to stretch defenses, coming off multiple injuries.

Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman will remind that no roster is a finished product in March -- or even June.

He’s right.

But the Carolina roster, at least at receiver, is a long way from being what Funchess envisioned a year ago.