Alex Kielar | April 30th, 2020
Carolina Panthers’ new head coach Matt Rhule had one thing in mind and one thing only: Improve the defense that allowed 29.4 PPG last season and lost six of seven players who had more than three sacks. Rhule and the Panthers did just that and became the first team in history to use all seven of their draft picks on defense. After working on the offense during free agency, the Panthers wanted to go defensive-heavy in the draft. A few offensive players showed up on their board throughout the draft but were gone by the time their pick came around.
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Round 1, Pick 7: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Panthers had a tough decision to make at this pick, but it’s a decision a lot of teams would be happy to have. They had their pick at two of the best defensive players in the draft, Isaiah Simmons and Brown. While I believe Simmons was the third-best player in the draft behind Chase Young and Joe Burrow, the Panthers went with Brown as they only had two defensive tackles on the roster. The Panthers’ reasoning was actually quite humorous, they believed that Simmons would be a better fit for a more established team, not one that is rebuilding. I mean come on, you can’t seriously tell me you didn’t select the best available player because he was “a better fit for a better team”. Either way, Brown is still a solid pick who has All-Pro potential and helps to shore up the defensive line.
Full scouting report on Brown here.
Round 2, Pick 38: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Panthers grab another player for their defensive line with a high-upside. Gross-Matos is a very powerful and strong edge rusher who is good at stopping the run as well. He will need to get more physical at the point of attack but he could be a starter for the Panthers sooner rather than later. He was rated as a first-round talent by some including myself and is a good selection in the early part of the second. The Panthers lost Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Vernon Butler in the offseason and using their first two picks on two defensive linemen, one who will be an immediate starter and one who can develop into one quickly is a solid move.
Full scouting report on Gross-Matos here.
Round 2, Pick 64: Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
The Panthers traded backup quarterback Kyle Allen for a fifth-round pick a few weeks ago which they then flipped along with their third-round pick for the last pick of the second round. With this pick, they kind of made up for not grabbing the versatile linebacker/safety Simmons in the first round. Chinn is listed as a safety but can also shift to play nickel corner and linebacker, and the versatility is what the Panthers needed. He still has a lot to work on, but he could prove to be a steal if his full potential is tapped into.
Full scouting report on Chinn here.
Round 4, Pick 113: Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Pride fell farther than I had thought he would have and the Panthers get another solid pickup for their secondary. Pride has great speed, running a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and he is a playmaker. To turn into a starter he will need to work on his tackling skills and further develop his footwork. His speed can help him make up for some of his deficiencies while he joins former Panther Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman in being selected in the fourth round. If he develops into anywhere near the player that Norman was for the Panthers, this was an outstanding pick. Either way, it is a pretty good pick off the bat. Pride may not start from day one but he could see time on special teams to start the season with his speed.
Round 5, Pick 152: Kenny Robinson, S, West Virginia
Carolina became the first team to draft a player from the XFL, as Robinson actually still has college eligibility remaining. It is actually the second former XFL player to join the Panthers, as they signed Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker earlier in the offseason. The Panthers get another versatile safety in Robinson as he can move all around the secondary. He was a top safety while at West Virginia, only allowing only 45% of passes to be completed while in coverage the two seasons he was there. He had two interceptions on eight passes into his coverage window while playing for the St. Louis Battlehawks. He has all the tools to become a great safety and great addition for the Panthers.
Round 6, Pick 184, Bravvion Roy, DT, Baylor
Former Baylor head coach Rhule’s familiarity with Roy may have had something to do with this pick as Roy was a big piece to the Baylor program being turned around last year. He never broke out until last year and is definitely more of a project selection. Being able to work behind and learn from first-round pick Brown and the other defensive tackles could prove very good for Roy and the Panthers. You can never have enough depth and especially when it is late in the draft with someone who has potential.
Round 7, Pick 221: Stanley Thomas-Oliver III, CB, Florida International
The seventh-round is where a lot of risky picks are made, and this is one of them. He is another project and really has boom-or-bust potential but with the right teaching he could end up very good. He actually came to FIU as a receiver but switched to corner as a sophomore and he still has a lot to learn. Grading is so hard with late-round picks especially because you won’t know for sure how they will work out until a few years down the line. Carolina really could have grabbed a tight end or offensive lineman here.
The Panthers had a solid overall draft on paper and filled the holes on defense that they needed to fill. With that said, there is a lot of boom-bust potential with this class, which we won’t know for sure for a few years. Their best pick by far was their first pick of Brown who has the most potential and is most pro-ready. He will immediately give their defensive line a major boost and allow them to get pressure on the quarterback. The worst pick was their last pick of Thomas-Oliver III, when there were other needs that they could have filled rather than a project pick. Overall, it was a good draft for now, but it could be a lot different when we look back on it.
Overall Grade: B
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