The selection of former Appalachian State University quarterback Armanti Edwards with the 89th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft was, certainly, the first time I’ve ever had an excuse to even remotely care about what happened during the great, shameless spectacle that is the NFL’s selection day.
Every single graduate of ASU, myself included, put up a collective sigh of relief when Edwards’ name was called. There was some suspicion among the Mountaineer faithful, which no one was willing to talk openly about, that Edwards might not get picked at all, or that he could wind up on the fourth string in the receiving corps for a team like the Cleveland Browns or some other perennial loser.
The 2010 Draft was the same year the Panthers selected Jimmy Clausen, who, by all measures, has turned out to be a dud, but no one was expecting Edwards to take many snaps under center.
But what I was expecting, mistakenly, was that the Panthers would understand the skills that Edwards has, and use them effectively to make the team better and win games.
I don’t have the statistics on how many punts Edwards returned in his athletic career, starting with high school, but it’s probably not many. He averaged 5.5 yards-per-punt-return for the Panthers last year (which, abysmally, led the Panthers), and was given only one rushing attempt and completed one pass.
Asking someone like Edwards, with a 5-foot-11-inch frame at 182 lbs., to return punts for a team with the blocking difficulties Carolina has is a death sentence. I know he can scramble, and I’ve seen his speed, but he doesn’t have the size to fight off a 250-lb. monster on the kicking team, particularly when as soon as his fingers touch the ball, that monster is only two steps away.
But he probably won’t have to worry about that this year.
The Panthers selected Arkansas wide receiver and punt returner Joe Adams with the 104th pick in the most recent Draft, and it’s likely that he’ll wind up on the receiving end of the relentless abuse Edwards had to take last year. What’s particularly frightening is that Adams and Edwards, in terms of stature, are basically the same.
That leaves Carolina with two options: give Edwards a chance to be the kind of player I believe he could be, or cut him.
A recent roster prediction for the Panthers showed the team giving Edwards the cut, and it looks like a tragic inevitability. If he’s a one-trick pony, as the Panthers seem to think he is, there’s nowhere that he fits in the Carolina offense.
With Cam Newton at quarterback the wildcat formation is out, and the running back position is more than filled by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. A spot at wide receiver, the position Edwards is officially listed at, doesn’t look very promising either, where the Panthers have Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Steve Smith.
Newton doesn’t need any more targets for his passes, he did just fine with the ones he had last year, and set a record for passing yards by a rookie in the process.
But the fact is that a shot at receiver is the last chance Edwards has and, if the Panthers decide to keep him, they need to give it to him.
If Edwards gets cut, it wouldn’t be one of the biggest draft busts ever, but it would show that Carolina has a tough time recognizing its untapped talent.
Edwards still made over $1 million in the process, but, since he’s only 24 years old, let’s hope he invested well.
Michael Gebelein is sports editor of the Lincoln Times-News.