While Steve Smith and Brandon Lafell have locked up their spots as the no. 1 and no. 2 receivers for the Carolina Panthers, the battle still rages on for the third receiver spot.
With Dominik Hixon just now coming off the DL, the competition has boiled down to former top-10 draft pick Ted Ginn Jr. and David Gettis. Both players have had a good preseason, but whose skill set better matches the Panthers’ scheme?
Both players have great upside, but they also have fatal flaws which will prevent them from ever being elite. Ginn has eye-popping speed and quickness, qualities that make him a premier return man, but lacks the hands and crisp route running needed to be a starting receiver in the NFL.
Gettis, on the other hand, used to possess above average speed, but has lost a step after a knee injury. Despite losing his speed, Gettis still has good hands and great size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and he can still separate on vertical routes from time to time.
The decision as to who mans the no. 3 receiver spot is ultimately dependent on how offensive coordinator Mike Shula uses Smith. Shula had said earlier this year that he would like to use Smith more in the slot, which would in turn change the role of Ginn or Gettis that particular offensive set.
When Smith lines up in the slot, then Gettis is the better option. That way, Smith can work underneath and in the middle from the slot and draw double teams, while Gettis and Lafell work one-on-one match-ups on the outside. They can use their size to out-position defenders and make tough catches, while Greg Olsen can act as a safety net in the middle.
If Smith is lined up on the outside, however, Ginn is the better option. With Smith garnering double-teams on the outside, Ginn should be able to use his quickness to snag passes in the slot, then use his speed to turn those short completions into big gains. If teams try to double-team Ginn, then they have an ever bigger problem with Smith one-on-one on the outside.
Either way, both receivers will get playing time, but I truly believe that Gettis deserves the no. 3 receiver spot. He has worked very hard to come back from injury, not to mention the fact that Ginn already has a spot secured as a return man, while Gettis can only play receiver.
The good news is that the Panthers have options, something they have rarely had at the receiver position in recent years.