Will the Panthers find the next Steve Smith?
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock suggested on the "Rich Eisen Podcast" this week that West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin's stock still is rising while Cordarrelle Patterson's slides due to the Tennessee standout's work-ethic and character concerns. It's becoming evident that Austin will not be there for the receiver-needy St. Louis Rams at No. 16 overall.
Austin widely is regarded as one of the most talented skill-position offensive players in the 2013 NFL Draft. As was the case with a young Smith, Austin is a weapon as a punt returner, outside receiver, slot receiver, gadget-play artist and occasional runner.
Mayock's opinion gibes with that of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who has anointed Austin his "favorite player in the draft."
If Austin still is on the board at No. 14 overall, new Panthers general manager Dave Gettelman is going to be tempted to pull the trigger on Smith's successor.