Carolina can get quality WR after first round

Here is why the Carolina Panthers aren't worried if they don't get a wide receiver with the 28th pick of Thursday's NFL draft.

Jarvis Landry.

Not that general manager Dave Gettleman and company are counting on getting the LSU wide receiver in the second or third round. That will be the luck of the draw.

But there are enough receivers of Landry's talent level to make it worth going in a different direction from a big need in the first round if the top six or seven rated receivers are gone, which well could happen based on many mock drafts.

History tells us waiting might be smart, too.

Of the 78 receivers drafted in the first two rounds in the past 10 years, only 18 (23 percent) have made at least one Pro Bowl, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Only 16 (20.5 percent) have had at least 50 receptions in their rookie season. Less than half (32) have had at least 40 receptions in their first year.

Of the top 30 wide receivers in receiving yards last season, only 16 were taken in the first two rounds.

In other words, receivers are risky business if you're looking for an immediate impact in the draft. The only time Carolina took a receiver in the first round was 1997, when it got Rae Carruth at No. 27.

Though the Colorado product had a decent first season with 44 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns, he caught only 18 passes in the next two seasons before his career ended with a murder charge and later conviction.

Which brings me back to Landry.

Landry had 137 career catches for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons. He had 77 catches for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns this past year.

His teammate, Odell Beckham Jr., had 143 receptions for 2,340 yards and 12 touchdowns in three years. He had 59 catches for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns this past season.

Yet because Beckham (6-foot, 187 pounds) is considered faster and slightly more physical, many have him rated as a mid first-round pick and Landry (6-1, 195) a second-round pick. That Landry had the slowest 40-yard dash time (4.77 seconds) among all receivers at the NFL combine because of a pulled right hamstring and Beckham ran a 4.43 contributed to the differential.

But when you get right down to it, there is not much difference in the two.

After the top two receivers in Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans, there is a pretty big gap to the next four or five. But the gap between that four or five and the next half dozen or more is small.

So if the top four or five tackles are gone at 28 and it comes down to taking a wide receiver versus a top pass-rushing end or cornerback, it could work in Carolina's favor to wait on a receiver, though it is a big need.

"Personally, I think I'm one of the better receivers in my class," Landry told ESPN.com. "My production has spoken for itself over the last couple of years. I played alongside another dominant receiver, and he put up 1,000 yards also."

To Landry's point, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 catches, which clearly separates him from most of the field. Clemson's second receiver, Martavis Bryant, had 42 catches for 828 yards.

Evans had 69 catches for 1,394 yards last season. Malcome Kennedy was second at Texas A&M in catches with 60 for 658 yards.

"If it comes down to a guy running a 4.4 or 4.3 (40), I didn't run that," Landry said. "But if you look at the body of work, I have what it takes to have a long and successful career."

The Panthers sent wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl to Baton Route, La., to work out Landry and Beckham on April 15. While Proehl was probing the players over dinner, Landry had a question for Proehl.

"I asked him what would it take for a guy like me and Odell to play in this league 17 years like he did," Landry said of Proehl, who was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams during his lengthy career. "One of his things was just beating a different challenge every day ... winning small battles and being prepared."

That is what Proehl did as a player. He was considered marginal in size and speed, but was known as one of the best route runners in the league. He also had memorable clutch plays, such as a game-winning touchdown catch in the 1999 NFC Championship Game that sent the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl.

Landry is that kind of player. Beyond his production, he was a team captain, has a high football IQ and has a reputation for being a good blocker and hitter on special teams.

There are others like him in that second-tier range.

"Absolutely," Landry said. "I can't control what I can't control. I'm just ready to lace up wherever they draft me."

So when you start to panic that the Panthers didn't select a wide receiver in the first round, do this.

Think of Jarvis Landry.