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The Panthers’ Receiving Corps Creates a High Leverage Situation

I’m a huge Devin Funchess fan, and the off-season buzz about Funchess has only made me more excited for what’s coming. But I’ve also recently downgraded Funchess in my Panthers’ projections because I don’t think his real breakout is probably coming this year. I don’t think it’s impossible, it just doesn’t seem likely right now. I’ll explain how I got here.

First, I think that the team likes what Ted Ginn brings to the offense, and I can’t fault them for that. Ginn is a field stretcher that they can probably benefit from, considering that their other top receiving options have similar profiles. So that’s the first thing. I think Ginn will have a role, and after Greg Olsen’s role, it might actually be the case that Ginn’s role is the most cemented. If you saw the Carolina preseason game then you know that Ginn played a lot with Cam Newton, while Funchess played more with Derek Anderson.

Then I think the high leverage situation is who actually ends up as the WR1 for them. While Ginn’s role might be the most locked in, he also probably isn’t going to ever get 120 targets. Based on reports out of camp, and the first preseason week, it does look like Kelvin Benjamin will resume that role. I might think that they’d be better off handing it to Funchess, but that thought and $3.75 will get me a cup of coffee.

I’m saying the situation is high leverage because I don’t think that Funchess going from WR3 to WR2 is as likely as going from WR3 to WR1. Benjamin is coming back from an ACL tear, has a history of trouble with conditioning, and now is being dogged by similar questions. So if something happens with Benjamin, like he suffers a re-conditioning injury, or the team changes their mind about him, Funchess could really shine. Or that’s my theory anyway based on the assumptions I discuss above. To briefly re-iterate:

  • If Ginn is healthy I just don’t think you’ll see CAR replace Ginn snaps with Funchess snaps.
  • Benjamin will likely be given the chance to fail at reclaiming his WR1 role
  • Funchess’ best chance for relevance comes with a Benjamin demotion, or injury. These things could happen, but when I draft Funchess I’m assuming that they would have to happen in order for him to be startable at any point this year.

I have Funchess on two of three dynasty teams and I considered selling him after I had the realizations that I describe above. However, I still think he has top five WR upside in his career and since he was reasonably priced when I acquired him, I may as well wait it out. If you look at 14TeamMocker’s piece about Funchess you’ll see that he has some really big receivers in his comps group, but also he’s similar to some of them two years before they really broke out.

I’ll admit it’s possible that I am reading too much into a few preseason snaps although the reason that I am not really worried that I’m overreacting is the idea that the team is excited about Funchess, but also doesn’t feel the need to thrust him into a star role, is an explanation that fits all of the facts we have. Mike Clay’s tweet from yesterday also lends additional credence to that view:

https://twitter.com/MikeClayNFL/status/765179983501389825

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