Let me start with the ominous warning for PANTHER fans, that everything for the present season for this franchise hinges on the medical condition of CAM NEWTON’s right shoulder/arm, and we shall see what we see in the coming month or so. As far as their April work in the Draft, I think it was a better effort overall than last year. Filling needs, without reaching too hard, is the NFL way these days. So let’s get at the detail.
Round 1, Pick 16
BRIAN BURNS ER/OB FLORIDA STATE
6’5 250 4.60/40 PP#14
BURNS is a superior athlete and an awesome defensive talent, who should be a star as a pro if he works hard enough. He has demonstrated that he has multiple moves as a pass rusher. He might work on his strength a bit more for when he lines up with his hand on the ground, but I believe that he will be best suited in more of an OB role than a down DE. With HC RON RIVERA pretty much acting as his own Defensive Coordinator, BURNS should get a chance to move around and shine. Task one is getting into the PANTHERS weight room and building up his frame for pro level of play, overall. In today’s NFL, where pass rushing is a premium skill, you can see why he moved up Draft Boards as April progressed. His upside looks huge.
Round 2, Pick 37
GREG LITTLE OT OLE MISS
6’5 310 5.31/40 PP#37
Lots of folks seem to be dwelling on what LITTLE cannot do out on the field of play, but let’s talk about what he can do. He is a natural, wide base OL prospect who needs advanced coaching/teaching to refine his on-field skills. He has some serious nasty in him when the ball is snapped. I suppose we could speculate that if he disappoints at OT, he might still make a very capable OG. However, they want him as an OT, and based on his college play, he has the tools to fill that role. He does need to be a bit more self-motivated, no matter how good a job they do in coaching him up. They are retooling their OL, and this guy has got to be one of the factors in that effort.
Round 3, Pick 100
WILL GRIER QB WEST VIRGINIA
6’3 217 4.88/40 PP#81
Despite some raised eyebrows at the time this Pick was announced, I think this makes sense for the franchise. With the state of CAM NEWTON’s shoulder still in question, please tell me who their vet backup QB is right now. I’m waiting PANTHERS fans… see below. It may be worth mentioning, that coming out of high school, GRIER was a local kid from the Charlotte area. If he develops, that could generate some increased ticket sales in time. GRIER has an above average arm, and excels throwing the deep ball. He displayed one of the stronger arms at the Combine with a ball speed recorded at 59 mph. That number is higher than any QB’s drafted before him recorded at the Combine. He must learn how to make decisions a bit quicker on the shorter open routes, and not waste too much time looking downfield for the deep ball. Scouts were impressed with his 37/8 TD/INT ratio this past season. He’s a classic pocket passer who must be well protected. I think this was a very smart pick by the PANTHERS.
Round 4, Pick 115
CHRISTIAN MILLER OB ALABAMA
6’3 247 4.70/40 PP#181
Let’s start by saying that he has a solid pedigree as a football player, with his father COREY having had a nice NFL career. A big reason why I had him ranked as a 6th Rounder had to do with nagging health issues during his college career. When healthy and on the field, he is an active player who impacts the opposing offense. In 2018, he recorded 36 T’s, 11.5 TFL, 8.5 S’s, and 12 QBH’s. You can clearly see from his numbers what his specialty is… pressuring the pocket. He has excellent length, highlighted by his 35 1/8″ arm length. He needs to add some functional muscle bulk without sacrificing his overall flexibility. He is another addition to fortify their LB group.
Round 5, Pick 154
JORDAN SCARLETT RB FLORIDA
5’10 207 4.46/40 PP#222
I dropped this guy by a couple rounds in my prospect rankings more for what he did off the field, than on it. He was in that large group of players that wound up suspended for the entire 2017 season. On the field, he shows big time flashes. He has some power, but his eyes help him the most, to pick the hole and run away from horizontal traffic. He averaged a healthy 5.9 ypc last season, and he looks like just the kind of guy to take some of the “touches” load off of McCAFFREY, who played on over 90% of their offensive snaps in 2018. That is clearly too much of a load, for a guy of his size. Their RB group got a bit long in the tooth in recent years, and he’s a nice piece to try to rebuild their depth around.
Round 6, Pick 212
DENNIS DALEY OT/G SOUTH CAROLINA
6’5 317 5.25/40 PP#170
I don’t see anything outstanding in his play, watching game tape, other than his strength and effort. However, that is critical at the next level. He started two seasons at LT for the GAMECOCKS, and I think the question going forward as a pro is more likely, can he work as an OG/RT back-up in the NFL? He shows good functional strength, and at times can just plain dominate defenders. It feels like coaches have underestimated his ability to perform out on the edge for his entire college career. Now he gets the chance to show the NFL what he’s made of. Don’t bet against him folks.
Round 7, Pick 237
TERRY GODWIN WR GEORGIA
5’11 184 4.56/40 PP#206
This guy is an enigma to me. I got a full week of close exposure to him at the Shrine venue. The difference between his quickness and straight line speed is almost shocking, but his quickness gets him open, especially on quick hitters to the sidelines. He absolutely must improve his concentration when catching the ball. He seems to worry too soon about running after the catch, and drops some easy ones. I saw that multiple times at the Shrine venue. Their prime slot receiver, JARIUS WRIGHT, turns 30 late this season. If GODWIN shows enough as a Rookie, he could be the logical slot-receiver in waiting.
This is not an overwhelming Draft group IMO, but it wouldn’t surprise me if all 7 guys made their 53-man roster. I also think every Pick helped to address a need area, without reaching. Even MILLER, who I had ranked 2 Rounds later than when they picked him, has a chance to develop, if he can get tougher and stay off injured lists. For this group to click big time, OL Coaches JOHN MATSKO and TRAVELLE WHARTON have got to nurture LITTLE and DALEY to be the best that they can be. With HC RIVERA making most of the defensive play/formation calls this season, the team is expected to operate in 3-4 base set more than in recent years. Accordingly, it was a smart move to add depth to the LB corps with BURNS/MILLER. I like their drafting for need, without reaching for “who is he” prospects, who may in reality be more like suspects. The answer to the question above about QB is that TAYLOR HEINICKE & KYLE ALLEN are the current back-ups. GRIER will battle with them to try to secure that No. 2 spot behind CAM. I like his chances, especially long term.
P.S. Anyone know for sure if the PANTHERS have any scouts west of the Mississippi? Take a look at their last two Drafts before you answer that one. Liking that home southern cooking, I guess.