Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver
The Carolina Panthers have had a much maligned receiving corps for a long time now – Steve Smith aside obvious – but there are bright spots coming through. We all know about 2014 1st round pick Kelvin Benjamin, but next to him, ready to step out and show the world what he can do is Devin Funchess.
Funchess came into the league last year as a second round pick from Michigan where he had played both receiver and tight end. He didn’t have highly polished route running skills – and still doesn’t – but his physical skills are what attracted the Panthers to him. Funchess struggled last year, bringing in just 31 catches and only seeing the field on 44.7% of the offensive snaps in 2015. That lack of route skills really hurt his ability to get open, but his physical prowess meant he could still make some impressive plays.
With Kelvin Benjamin coming back into the team for 2016, Ted Ginn Jr as the deep threat and Corey Brown around as well, Funchess will have to fight for his game time throughout training camp but he seems up for the challenge.
“I want to be a bigger part and help the other guys – make sure we’re all making plays and make sure we get the W at the end of the day.” Funchess told the Charlotte Observer.
That kind of mature mentality is rare in a second year player, but is definitely a good sign for his growth as a player in 2016.
Funchess was showing signs of improvement at the end of last season, scoring five touchdowns in his last 9 games of the regular season and putting up 120 yards on seven catches in Week 17 against Tampa Bay. Head coach Ron Rivera has said that he is currently “light years ahead” of where he was last year. If that’s true and Funchess can add some fundamentals and nuance to his physicality then defenders better watch out. While he is unlikely to out-produce Benjamin in 2016 don’t sleep on Funchess being a key cog of the Panthers offense and making plays in unexpected ways.