The second day of the NFL Draft is always among the most intriguing for roster-building periods. A great deal of talent always falls through the cracks after the first round, meaning that teams can find some important value in round two and three.
The Carolina Panthers became the beneficiary of one of those falls as they were able to secure Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn at the end of round two, after trading up from No. 69 to No. 64 with the Seattle Seahawks, giving up pick 148.
Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn
Chinn was a four-year starter for the Salukis and immediately helped make an impact for the team, starting six games as a freshman. He was second on the team in tackles per game and third in that category among Missouri Valley Conference freshmen in 2016. In 2017, he started all 11 games at safety and was third on the team with 66 tackles. He also posted three interceptions, six pass breakups, and four forced fumbles. He was named second-team All-MVFC.
In 2018, Chinn saw seven starts at safety, and two starts at cornerback. He picked off three passes and had 55 tackles, second-most on the team. He was named to the first-team All-MVFC. In 2019, maybe his best season yet, he started 10 games and had four interceptions, earning his second appearance on the first-team All-MVFC. He was also a consensus All-American.
The buzz surrounding Chinn
Chinn was beginning to garner some first-round buzz, especially after an impressive showing during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. So how did he nearly drop into the third round before the Panthers traded up to No. 64?
Injuries may have been a factor. Chinn missed two games due to an injury in 2018 and two games in 2019 due to plantar fasciitis. Chinn is also viewed as a raw prospect and a positionless-player, similar to Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
There is also the argument of the competition level, with Chinn playing in the FCS at Southern Illinois. On the flip side to that, however, is the fact that Kyle Dugger, who played at a lower level than Chinn (Division II Lenoir-Rhyne), was taken 27 spots higher at No. 37 overall by the New England Patriots. The safety class as a whole fell, dropping Chinn down. Xavier McKinney was the first safety taken, and he went at No. 36 overall to the New York Giants.
With that being said, Chinn was regarded as perhaps a more raw version of Isaiah Simmons, allowing for similar versatility as Simmons, just with more time needed to develop.
Teams that bypassed
While we didn’t expect Chinn to be the first safety taken, you could argue he wasn’t going to wait too long after Dugger was selected. But as the picks went on, the possibility grew that he’d slip into the third round. The Cleveland Browns selected Grant Delpit at No. 44, followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting Antoine Winfield Jr. at No. 45.
The Seattle Seahawks were another team that could have had an interest in Chinn but chose Tennessee OLB Darrell Taylor at No. 48 instead. Even the Philadelphia Eagles could have been a nice fit for Chinn, but they stunned many by taking Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd pick.
The Miami Dolphins were in the mix for safety help but chose Louisiana OG Robert Hunt at No. 39 and Alabama DT Raekwon Davis at No. 56 before grabbing their safety in Texas’ Brandon Jones at No. 70.
In the end, when the Seahawks were back on the board at No. 64, Matt Rhule and the Panthers came calling, sending picks 69 and 148 to the Seahawks for pick 64 to secure the Chinn.
The Panthers were faced with the decision of Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons with the seventh overall pick and decided against Simmons in favor of Brown. They even passed on Chinn again at No. 37 to select Penn State edge Yetur Gross-Matos. But getting a versatile “safety” like Chinn means the Panthers, in a way, end up coming away from the draft with Derrick Brown and Isaiah Simmons. Chinn is more of a developmental prospect than Simmons, but that is fine for a rebuilding team like the Panthers, who simply needed an influx of talent on defense.
The Panthers are likely going to start Chinn as a safety, but they’ll have the flexibility to move him around as they see fit. He’ll get to play behind a young, developing defensive line that now includes Brown and Gross-Matos. Chinn is one of the more exciting prospects in the draft and is a promising fit for the new-look Carolina Panthers.
Bill Riccette is a contributing writer for PFN. You can follow him on Twitter @Bill_Riccette.