A good friend and respected Draftnik mentioned that he wondered what I thought about the Panthers 2018 Draft effort. That sounded like a solid enough reason to add my answer as one of our team draft reviews. So here we go for Riverboat Ron’s team.
The team had the exactly the right number of Picks when the dust settled and they had added 8 players to their roster through exercising their Picks. The team addressed needs on almost every position unit on their roster other than their OL and RB. They also were not involved in the annual QB derby. It’s CAM or bust and he’s still on the correct side of 30. RB became a non-need when they added C.J. ANDERSON (from Denver) to replace their aging franchise RB JONATHAN STEWART, now with the Giants.
I felt the team had left themselves thin at WR last season when they did some house cleaning at the position, including trading KELVIN BENJAMIN to the BILLS. With their first round Pick they grabbed D.J. MOORE, who indeed was ranked as one of the top 3 wideouts in this draft. MOORE may fit their scheme better than the departed Benjamin had with more speed, better hands and excellent yards-after-catch ability. He should fit in as their No. 2 wideout as a Rookie. They also made a solid stab in grabbing TE IAN THOMAS/Indiana to become part of the answer to replacing GREG OLSEN, perhaps as early as next year. Not only has OLSEN been nicked up a bit in recent seasons, but he looks to be in high demand from network TV as a future color analyst. THOMAS has very good upside and hopefully will learn a lot from Olsen and the coaching staff in 2018. He’s a pick with big time upside, and may be one of those guys who eventually classifies as a better pro than a collegian.
Everything else in this effort came on the defensive side of the ball, starting with 2 DB in the 2nd and 3rd Rounds consecutively. Pick 55 was the fastest man at this years Combine, DONTE’ JACKSON/CB/LSU. He certainly seems to be an ideal fit for them as the No. 1 slot-Corner.
Tennessee’s DB RASHAAN GAULDEN was a too high for my taste at Pick 85. However, more than a few folks feel pretty strongly that he will be converted to S and eventually start there. These two represent a serious talent influx and will help the team turnover a secondary that is loaded with age in places, like MIKE ADAMS at SS, and journeyman vets.
Under Ron Rivera the Panthers always like to have a solid 2-deep DL group. In Round 7 they grabbed big bodied athlete KENDRICK NORTON/DT from The U. Basically I see NORTON as a big body DT to replace STAR LOTULELEI and save the team a ton of money in that DL group. He has serious upside but needs to get in better physical shape, and push himself to excel. At the least he’s an athletic space eater, but watching him play I felt there was more to be gotten out of him if properly motivated.
To wrap it all up in a bow, the team drafted 3 LB for a very thin and aging LB group. The most exciting of the 3 is MARQUIS HAYNES who played primarily as a pass rushing DE at Ole Miss. They will work to convert him to a stand-up LB who can also edge rush on passing downs. He certainly appears to have the talent to adapt to play standing up, but there are few sure things in that process in the NFL. He was a solid participant at the Senior Bowl and crated some pocket pressure from a DE spot at the Senior Bowl. Look for him to contribute early as a rusher for them. The other two LB draftees will have to earn their spurs initially on Special Teams, but I really like ANDRE SMITH, a local favorite from UNC, as an undersized but very productive gap-plugger, who can also pursue to the corners. When healthy he may be very hard to keep off the field. They must see JERMAINE CARTER as a potential Special Teams Ace.
I would rank this effort as above average with the team taking advantage of the quality depth of the 2018 Prospect group as a whole. But I would also point out that of their 8 draftees half of them I had ranked at over 200 on my ranking list, even though they 6 of their total Picks were at No. 161, or better. I would also add that they look to have signed a pretty solid group of URFA as well. I will be surprised if at least 10 Rookies don’t make their 53-man roster come September.