04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Panthers' picks: Round 4/104 -- Joe Adams, WR, 5-11, 179, Arkansas...Has home-run potential, and will get the first chance as a punt returner. Averaged 16.9 yards per return last year, with four touchdowns. If he can learn ball security (11 career fumbles) has a chance to be an impact player. - The Sports Xchange
A four-year starter, Adams was a top-10 cornerback/receiver recruit out of high school, choosing hometown Arkansas over Florida, USC and Oklahoma. He saw playing time as a true freshman in 2008 (7 starts), recording 31 catches for 377 yards (12.2) and 1 TD, adding a passing score. Adams again started 7 contests in 2009 as a sophomore, finishing with 29 receptions for 568 yards (19.6) and a career-best 7 touchdowns, earning Second Team All-SEC honors.
He was the team's slot receiver in 2010 as a junior, recording 50 catches for 813 yards (16.3) and 6 touchdowns, adding a PR for a score. Adams had his most productive season in 2011 as a senior, finishing with 54 catches for 652 yards (12.1) and 3 touchdowns with 5 non-receiving scores (4 PR, 1 rush), earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
Adams originally verbally committed to USC out of high school, but switched to Arkansas after offensive-minded Bobby Petrino was hired as the head coach. His inconsistent hands are his biggest weakness and needs to work on his reliability securing the catch.
Adams is an exciting playmaker with natural explosion, foot speed and electric burst, wanting to score on every touch, but too often backtracks and loses yards in search of the big play -- an unpolished pass catcher who needs to work on the little things, but offers immediate value as an impact return man, which pushes his draft value into the top-100 range.
Strengths: Fluid athlete with explosive burst and speed to stretch the field and breeze past defenders. Has a quick first step and gets to top-speed in a hurry. Has rare suddenness with lightning footwork to create in tight areas with elusive shiftiness and change of direction skills -- tough to contain in space with make-you-miss ability. Has top-shelf balance and with lower body strength to power through arm tackles. Has very good vision to set up his moves with impressive run-after-the-catch ability -- makes something out of nothing. Has a flexible frame with good body control. Plays fast and has an eye for the big play. An impact return man with a 15.8 career average and 5 career punt returns for scores -- named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011 with 4 returns for touchdowns. Confident player and disciplined athlete, eating the right things and taking care of his body. Dangerous weapon with some offensive versatility -- experience lining up in the backfield and taking hand-offs (2 rush touchdowns, 1 pass score in his career).
Weaknesses: Undersized with average height and a very lean frame -- marginal bulk and poor strength on his body. Smaller target with streaky concentration and ballskills -- only average hands and battles drops. Inconsistent on passes away from his frame and has too many body catches. Searches too much for the home run and doesn't simply take what's there -- routinely dances and goes side-to-side and backwards, resulting in negative yardage. Needs to refine his routes and become a better all-around receiver -- lacks polish. Has some ball security concerns and needs to hold onto the ball through contact. Talks too much on the field and has had to be restrained by teammates in the past. H as some durability concerns because of his size and suffered a mild stroke in 2009, something that needs to be monitored.
NFL Comparison: Jerel Jernigan, New York Giants
-- Dane Brugler