Keyarris Garrett doesn’t know why he went undrafted, but the Carolina Panthers are happy he did.
The former Tulsa wide receiver is one of the gems of Carolina’s undrafted free-agent class. He led the nation in receiving yards last season, and Friday he donned a Panthers practice jersey for the first time at rookie minicamp.
“I’m trying to show these coaches why I should have been drafted and why I feel like I was the best wide receiver in the draft,” Garrett said. “That’s my goal.”
Making that proclamation is a big one, though. Four receivers were taking in the first round of April’s draft, and 33 receivers were taken overall in the draft.
But Garrett points to the stat book.
“Well if you look at the stats, that’s what everybody wants to go by is numbers,” Garrett said. “My numbers didn’t lie. I had the best numbers out of any receiver in the draft, so that’s just how I feel.”
Garrett, who’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, caught 96 passes for 1,588 yards last season for the Golden Hurricane to lead all receivers in college football’s top division. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Focus are even more impressive.
According to PFF, Garrett had just three drops on 99 catchable passes. He forced 21 missed tackles on those catches, and 19 of those catches were deep (20 yards or more downfield). His 725 deep-pass yards were second-most among all receivers in college.
“I was kind of upset about it a little bit, but that’s something I can’t control,” Garrett said of going undrafted. “I felt like I did everything I could do.
“I really wasn’t getting a lot of feedback. A lot of people couldn’t tell me why they didn’t pick me. I’m not really too much focused on that. That’s in the past. I’m out here trying to get better.”
A native of Daingerfield, Texas, Garrett received interest from schools such as Texas Tech and went on a visit to Pittsburgh. But he picked Tulsa because of how much interest the Golden Hurricane staff showed him during high school.
Garrett dealt with injuries in his freshman season and only had two catches. The next year he was second-team all-conference with 67 catches for 845 yards and nine touchdowns.
He was primed for a breakout season before he broke his left leg early in his junior year and received a redshirt. Garrett had 698 yards the following season before his big senior campaign that earned him All-America honors.
The Panthers sent receivers coach Ricky Proehl to Tulsa to work out Garrett before the draft, and the team had him on their draft board, sources said.
Garrett’s injury history might have played a role in his fall, along with his below-average speed.
His 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the combine was in the 45th percentile among receivers, though it was a rather good time for someone his size. His 34 1/2-inch-long arms were among the longest at the combine for receivers, but his 9-inch hands were among the smallest.
Made a priority after the draft by the Panthers, Garrett picked Carolina for the opportunity to learn from Proehl, work with fellow tall receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess and catch passes from league MVP Cam Newton.
Garrett said going undrafted is in the past for him, but there’s no mistake that he’s going to carry this chip on his shoulder.
“Always. Always,” he said. “I think about it all the time. I don’t let it bring me down, but I think about it all the time.”