Pre-Draft Needs: G, DT, CB, DE, OLB, WR
Round 1-Luke Kuechly/LB
Round 2-Amini Silatolu/G
Round 4-Frank Alexander/DE
Round 4-Joe Adams/WR
Round 5-Josh Norman/CB
Round 6-Brad Nortman/P
Round 7-D.J. Campbell-S
DT, CB (veteran), WR (veteran)
Based on last year’s improvement, this became an increasingly important draft for the Panthers in their step back up the ladder in the NFC South.
First-round pick Luke Kuechly will play at WLB this season - not MLB - as many thought would be the case. Kuechly, the No. 1 rated linebacker for this year’s NFL draft on many draft boards, should wind up being a three-down player this season and for years to come for the Panthers. He’s a true impact defender because of his ability to diagnose and make plays. And he was rated as the best coverage linebacker for this draft by many scouting sources.
Second-round pick G Amini Silatoulu, as one personnel source said, could wind up being the top guard out of this draft down the road. But he has to overcome being a Division II player and going up against a lower level of competition in college. Silatoulu, who should start on the left side this season for Travelle Wharton who was cut earlier this year, is known in scouting circles for his core strength and good feet for an offensive lineman of his size.
With the need for a developmental defensive end, the Panthers selected Frank Alexander with the first of their two fourth-round picks. Alexander, who’s known for his high motor and short area quickness, should be able to make the roster coming out of the preseason as a fourth or fifth end. Fellow fourth-round pick WR Joe Adams also has a chance to contribute as a rookie as a special teams returner and as a fourth receiver. Adams, who put together a tremendous set of practices during Senior Bowl week earlier this year, could eventually earn a significant role down the road as the team’s slot receiver.
Fifth-round pick CB Josh Norman, if he has a strong training camp and preseason, could push for a role as the fourth cornerback since the team is not deep at the position. Norman, despite his really strong post-season (all-star games), didn’t time well during the NFL Combine earlier this year, but has the ability to start down the road based on his skill set. Norman is known in scouting circles for his physical play and intelligence.
The Panthers parted ways with veteran P Jason Baker, so they decided to replace him with sixth-round pick Brad Nortman. The team signed veteran P Nick Harris to challenge him in training camp.
Seventh-round pick S D.J. Campbell is a true developmental safety, but has enough ability for the team to develop his skills on the practice squad.
Overall, this looks to be a solid draft for the Panthers based on the first two picks and the upside of picks selected lower.