The 2015-2016 & the 2016-2017 NFL season were significantly different from each other with the Panthers unable to find answers after their Super Bowl 50 loss to the Denver Broncos. Most of the blame is due to the loss of key defensive stars CB Josh Norman and DE Jared Allen. On Offense, the Offensive Line was too inconsistent to put up high scores. The Panthers had six games where they lost by a margin of 3 points or less. This offseason they will need to prepare diligently if they want to avoid another disastrous 6-10 season.
RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) Round: 1 Pick: 8 (Grade: B+)
The Carolina Panthers managed to select one of the best remaining players in the Draft offensively. The Panthers needed much more help in the Secondary after the loss of CB Josh Norman due to free agency. Last season, the Panthers were ranked 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (268). Offensively, the Panthers needed help in the line but were too high for the best OT in the draft (who had mid-round talent at best). McCaffrey brings a versatile philosophy to the Panthers offense and special teams. McCaffrey was one of the fastest Running Backs in all of College Football while being a slot receiver for Stanford. He will also be the best return specialist for Carolina with them losing WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr. to free agency to New Orleans.
WR Curtis Samuel (Ohio State) Round: 2 Pick: 40 (Grade: A-)
Wide Receiver was a position that not only needed depth but talent. Last season, WR Devin Funchess was too unreliable as one of their top receivers like he was in the 2015-2016 NFL season as a rookie. Funchess was 4th on the team in receiving yards (371) but only accounted for 23 receptions on 59 targeted throws which resulted in a 40% catch ratio. Samuel was a Wide Receiver with a big push to be selected in the 1st round of the Draft. The Panthers used their first two picks on Offense but not on Offensive Linemen. Defense is still an issue, but the Panthers could not afford to overlook a player like Samuel.
OT Taylor Moton (Western Michigan) Round: 2 Pick: 64 (Grade: A)
With the selection of Moton, they secured one of the best Tackles in the Draft. It was a top three need. Moton had a school record of 52 career starts and was a huge reason for the Western Michigan Broncos record 13-1. Carolina finally has a young, reliable tackle they can use with OT Michael Oher and newly acquired Matt Kalil. The Panthers were tied for 21st in passing yards per game (230.3) and 15th in points per game (23.1).
DE Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M) Round: 3 Pick: 77 (Grade B-)
Depth at the Defensive End was a need; they acquired a talented player who was just as talented as Texas A&M teammate Myles Garrett. For a while, Hall was the best Defensive End until Garrett became dominant. The lack of a pass rush was a big reason for the Panthers ranking 29th in passing defense. Adding a consistent pass rush can help the inexperienced Secondary ease into defensive formations.
CB Corn Elder (Miami) Round: 5 Pick: 152 (Grade B)
Waiting until the 5th round might have been late to address the huge Secondary issue the selection of Elder might prove to be perfect. Elder was a player with a great showing at the Senior Bowl and a significant Pro Day in Miami. Elder will add talent and consistency to a team that was destroyed by their three NFC South opponents Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans each with a top passing game. Watch for him to be a likely starter in the middle of the season, possibly on day one if all goes well.
DE Alex Armah (West Georgia) Round: 6 Pick: 192 (Grade: C-)
The West Georgia Wolves had two players from their football squad selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, which could be a rise in their program. In the meanwhile, the Panthers were still not convinced they had enough depth and talent on the Defensive Line even though they resigned DE Julius Peppers. Armah is a great run stopper and great pass rusher despite reports of him being undersized.
K Harrison Butker (Georgia Tech) Round: 7 Pick: 233 (Grade: C)
The Kicker position is usually an uncommon pick in the Draft unless there are significant kicking problems on the team. Last season, the Panthers were 26th in the league in field goal percentage (78.9%). Perhaps doesn’t seem to be much, but when you lose six games of 3 or fewer points, you have to start looking for every statistic. Harrison had an 88.2% kicking percentage his senior year at Georgia Tech. Starting Kicker Graham Gano is also suffering from a foot injury.
Panthers Overall team grade of Draft process: A-