Does Devin Funchess Make Sense in Carolina?
For members of every incoming draft class, the NFL Combine can be a blessing or a curse, depending on individual performances in Indianapolis in February.
Some guys (Byron Jones, for example) literally jump out of the gym, and in doing so, boost their draft stock immensely. Others (Devin Funchess, for example) come in and fail to live up to expectations and thus, see their stock fall precipitously.
Despite what some general managers may have thought following the combine, the Carolina Panthers felt strongly enough about Funchess to take him with their second-round pick, at 41st overall.
He joins Kelvin Benjamin on the Panthers' roster, a player that has been compared to Funchess by members of the draft community, if not for the simple fact they resemble each other size-wise.
Where Funchess Fits
The question of what position -- wide receiver or tight end -- best suits Funchess is a fair one to consider. Below are Funchess’s spider charts, courtesy of mockdraftable.com, comparing his metrics against other wide receivers as well as other tight ends.
On paper, he looks like a tight end with wide receiver explosiveness. But the question still remains whether or not Funchess will be able to create separation against bigger, stronger, more experienced NFL secondaries.
Optimum Scouting paints an optimistic picture of Funchess as a tight end in the NFL:
“As an athlete, Devin Funchess offers the balance, body type and concentration at both receiver and tight end as a pass-catcher to make up for a lack of top-end speed, quickness or elusiveness. One of the most natural and physical pass-catchers out of the college ranks in recent years, Funchess is consistently effective at finishing at the catch-point, especially against just one defender. However, his lack of great lateral quickness along with his blocking/NFL-readiness at tight end should give teams hope he can be a mix of Benjamin and Greg Olson/Jermichael Finley.”
Pro Football Focus countered by saying:
"His real problem is not the lack of speed (if he plays in a (Marques) Colston role), but his inconsistent hands and desire to take the hit over the middle. Funchess had six drops this year and was the primary target on four interceptions, one of which (against Utah) was entirely his fault as he made a lazy one-handed attempt to pull in a pass over the middle rather than extend for it. Colston made a career out of reliability, Funchess needs to become more reliable to replicate it."
How Funchess Fits in Carolina
There's no doubt Carolina needed help at the wide receiver and tight end position. The aforementioned Benjamin is the clear-cut number one, but after that, there's not much on the current depth chart. Greg Olsen is a solid tight end who will not be pushed for playing time by Funchess anytime soon. That doesn't mean, however, that Olsen and Funchess can't work in tandem in certain packages.
Carolina ranked 17th in team Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) adjusted for schedule last season. It's true that Cam Newton dealt with injuries for much of last season, but his lack of accuracy is still a consideration. Thankfully, Funchess has the size to go get overthrown passes, much like Benjamin did last season. Problems could arise if Funchess ends up occupying a copy carbon role to Benjamin in the offense, and it's up to the coaching staff to find inventive ways to use both players simultaneously.
Ultimately, Funchess's prospects are largely unknown. He has the size that NFL teams covet so highly and if he can become more polished as a route runner and become more physical, a similar rookie season to Benjamin's 2014 is certainly not out of the question.