2018 NFL Draft Grades: Carolina Panthers Add Depth And Youth
The Carolina Panthers were a surprise addition to the 2017 NFL Playoffs. After a 6-10 season in 2016, many expected the Panthers to take the same step in 2017. However, Ron Rivera had his team ready to play football in 2017. Again, led by QB Cam Newton the Carolina Panthers finished second in the NFC South with an 11-5 record. This was with minimal weaponry on offense too. Therefore, heading into the 2018 NFL Draft you would expect the administration staff to address those issues. How did they fair? Here is a look at those selections and how they grade out.
Round 1 – D.j. Moore, WR – Maryland
Moore set a Maryland school record for receptions in 2017 (80). He was a starter in all 12 games. His skill set is similar to that of Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings. Meanwhile, he may be able to take some of the return duties away from second-year star Christian McCaffrey. Look for Moore to star early in the Panthers offense.
Round 2 – Donte Jackson, CB – LSU
Jackson has outstanding speed and is a tremendous athlete. Even though he is a bit undersized, those traits allow him to be a fantastic cover corner. His speed also allows him to close on the ball. He has the ability to play slot or outside and should help the Carolina Panthers early.
Round 3 – Rashaan Gaulden, S – Tennessee
Gaulden started 12 games for the Volunteers in 2017. He posted 65 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 5 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recoveries. He was Tennessee’s best defender in 2017. Gaulden will probably transition to CB for the Panthers.
Round 4 – Ian Thomas, TE – Indiana
Thomas is a young eager TE. The Carolina Panther are looking for a replacement to Greg Olsen. He is in the stretch of his contract. Ian Thomas could be that player. Thomas has a large skill set and is steadily climbing as a TE. Thus, he gives the Panthers options on offense and can eventually become a starter.
Round 4 – Marquis Haynes, Edge – Mississippi
Haynes can come in and wreak havoc on opposing passers. His get off allows him to get in the backfield with disruptive quickness. The Carolina Panthers could use some help rushing the passer. Haynes could find work in sub packages and give the ageless Julius Peppers a breather.
Round 5 – Jermaine Carter Jr., LB – Maryland
Carter was team captain for the Terps in 2017. He amassed 90 tackles (team high) and 3.5 sacks. He is a team leader. Playing inside and behind a player like Luke Kuechly will all Carter Jr. to develop at the pro level.
Round 7 – Andre Smith, LB – North Carolina
Smith is a downhill LB that loves to hit. However, he lacks the cover skills to stay with TEs on the inside. This will limit him to being a two-down type backer. Smith could make his living on special teams or may be a candidate for the practice squad.
Round 7 – Kendrick Norton, DT – Miami
Norton is a big NT, coming in at 6’3” and 314lbs. He can play in both a 40 or 30 front. His toughness is in his genes. He grandfather is the late former Heavyweight Champion, Ken Norton Sr. In fact, he plants his feet and becomes an immovable object. He does not have to play right away with the Carolina Panthers having Dontari Poe and Kwan Short in the middle.
The Carolina Panthers had a solid 2018 Draft class. They got younger in areas they needed to. Only time will tell, however, I believe that the Panthers had a fantastic draft.
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