<
>

Panthers rookie spotlight: WR Devin Funchess still trying to fit in

Devin Funchess hasn't climbed the Panthers' depth chart yet, but could become a red-zone target. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A look at Carolina Panthers second-round draft pick Devin Funchess, a wide receiver out of Michigan:

Impressions: You haven’t seen Funchess make the plays he did during offseason workouts because Kelvin Benjamin, last year’s first-round pick, no longer is sidelined by hamstring injuries, as he was in May and June. There’s a flash here and a flash there for Funchess, whose biggest day came during a red-zone drill last week when he had three catches inside the 20. At 6-foot-4, that might be where he is most valuable as the Panthers try to create mismatches with Funchess, Benjamin (6-5) and tight end Greg Olsen (6-5) close to the goal line. But Funchess isn’t ready to step into the No. 2 role yet. He was listed with the third-tier receivers in the team’s first depth chart, which is unofficial. Benjamin, Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery are listed above him. I don’t see Funchess staying that low. I also don’t see him starting the season No. 2 unless he takes great strides over the next month.

What’s next? Funchess should have a chance to shine in Friday’s preseason opener at Buffalo for the same reason he did in OTAs. Benjamin likely won’t play more than a couple of series. For Funchess to move up the depth chart, he needs to start catching eyes, because the competition is strong for possibly seven receivers to make the roster. Coach Ron Rivera recently said the No. 2 receiver spot could be filled by committee. Because Funchess can play all three receiver spots, it gives him more opportunities to get on the field.

Quotable: “He’s a very smart kid and picked up the offense, no problem. He is going to be great; he’s going to be good. I see myself in him with me being young. The league is very demanding and they don’t really give you that time to grow anymore. I think he’s going to be great and a big piece for us.” – Benjamin