The Panthers addressed two of their most-pressing areas of need in the 2019 NFL Draft but neglected some others. Let’s take a look at the best and worst moves in the draft by Marty Hurney and company.
Rush the passer and protect Cam Newton. That has been the motto for the Panthers all offseason, and Marty Hurney and the Carolina front office were able to address these two concerns early on in the draft.
Round 1, Pick 16: EDGE Brian Burns
Who would have thought that both Brian Burns and Montez Sweat would be on the board for the Panthers at pick 16? I did not expect it. The Panthers faced a pleasant dilemma choosing between there top guys- Burns, Sweat, and tackle Andre Dillard. Burns checks all of the boxes for a top prospect. He was highly productive in college and was one of the best performers at the NFL Combine. The upside and collegiate success of Burns, who some consider that top edge in the draft class, made him the Panthers’ top choice on the board and one of the best selections in the first round. The Panthers began their draft with a big win, getting the best player available at a top area of need.
Round 2, Pick 37: OT Greg Little
Going into Friday night, I was nervous if the Panthers could find a quality left tackle at pick 47. The surprising first-round selections of Tytus Howard and Kaleb McGary did not leave many starting-caliber left tackles on the board in round two. Thankfully, the Panthers’ front office anticipated this and acted swiftly with a trade.
Though giving up the 77th overall was expensive, getting Newton a proper left tackle transcends what may not be considered ideal “value.” Time will tell if Cody Ford, who the Bills drafted one spot later at 38, should have been the pick. However, Greg Little was a favorite prospect of the Panthers throughout the draft process. They got their guy at one of their most important positions of need and avoided potentially whiffing on drafting starting-caliber offensive lineman in the draft. Check out our draft profile on the potential franchise left tackle.
— PFF CAR Panthers (@PFF_Panthers) April 26, 2019
Round 3, Pick 100: QB Will Grier
Newton’s shoulder injury is a genuine concern, and the Panthers don’t have a quality back up if he misses more time. I get it. However, I do not think the Panthers are currently in a position to succeed if Newton is not on the field.
Free safety and slot cornerback are currently open competitions between players with little-to-no experience. Donte Jackson and Eric Reid are the only defensive backs on contract in 2020. Depth is thin at defensive line and linebacker.
Trading away pick 77 made the need to find a potential starter at pick 100 more critical. In a draft with excellent depth of talent, the Panthers missed out on finding a potential starter to help build a roster that cannot succeed when Newton is not on the field. Below is a short list of players that I would have rather seen over Will Grier, including two safeties that would have likely been day one starters.
Both Christian Miller and Jordan Scarlett were solid picks and were given an A- grade by Cbssports. I thought the Panthers would address free safety with Amani Hooker, who the Titans traded up to select a pick after Miller, but pass-rushers are still an area of need for the Panthers, even after the selection of Brian Burns. Miller is a talented, high-ceiling pass-rusher whose value fell due to his injury history. If Miller can stay healthy, he has the potential to be an above-average starting defensive end in the NFL.
Taking the load off Christian McCaffrey is a huge priority for the Panthers in 2019. Scarlett can be the guy to not just lower McCaffrey’s snap count but give the Carolina backfield dual-threat potential. His value fell in the draft process as a result of a couple of off-field legal issues. I was shocked to see linebacker Blake Cashman and defensive linemen Charles Omenihu and Daylon Mack still on the board. I would have preferred those players, but Scarlett was still one of the best available at pick 154. Scarlett will compete to be McCaffrey’s main complement, and I expect him to win the role by season’s end.
Overall, the Panthers had a decent enough to warrant me giving them a B grade. They addressed their two most prominent areas of need with arguably the best players available on the board at the time. However, it did come at a cost, dealing away pick 77 overall and failing to address the free safety position and depth in the secondary.