Once upon a time, I didn't have full trust in David Gettleman’s drafting abilities. This time was shortly before his second draft as the Panther’s General Manager. As I gathered before my television screen, I was ecstatic when Marqise Lee fell to the Panther’s pick in the first round, I mouthed Lee’s name as the pick came through. Ugh. Kelvin Benjamin? At that point in time I believed what many of the draft scouts said about Benjamin, not realizing Gettleman knows far more than the whole lot of them. When the Panthers were on the clock in the second round, I thought we should go for Allen Robinson, another receiver. When the pick turned out to be Kony Ealy, I was deflated, another defensive lineman? Ugh. Along comes the third round, and I’m covering my eyes with my hands, hoping Pierre Desir would last until the 92nd pick. He did, but the name Trai Turner was called; can he play tackle? No. Ugh. The fourth round was a real nail biter, spending every pick hoping Desir’s name doesn't get called. I thought surely the Saints would draft him, they needed a corner, nope they drafted a linebacker instead. I finally breathed a sigh of relief, only one team left before we are on the clock (The Browns) and they drafted a corner round one. A few minutes later, Cleveland sent an ice pick into my heart; Pierre Desir was a Brown, one pick before the Panthers were on the clock. I almost didn't care about who the Panthers picked next, but when the name Tre Boston was called, I was done. Tre Boston? I didn't want us to draft him, and I’m a UNC fan! Ughhh. I would go on to tell you my reactions to the last two Panther draft choices, but this is where the train lets off.
Tre Boston was one of my favorite Tar Heels in recent history, Giovani Bernard aside. The swagger on the field, the interceptions, the dreads, his abrasive style of play; I liked everything about him. But those pesky NFL Draft Profiles popped up, and my belief in Tre Boston as a NFL player were put into question. I look back and can’t believe some simple scouting reports turned me against one of my favorite players. “He will have to turn heads on special teams to have longevity as a backup,” said Nolan Nawrocki (lol). “How can we draft a special teamer in the fourth round,” something like that crossed through my mind post his selection. As the preseason wore on, we learned Tre Boston had a sports hernia and would miss some of the season. I couldn't believe this was happening; this has bust written all over it. Turns out I was wrong. Tre Boston isn't a bust, he is the exact opposite.
He came back from his injury and posted seven tackles in his first start as an NFL player. He went on to pick off Matt Ryan and return it for a touchdown a few weeks later, now what became my favorite play of my favorite game during last year’s regular season. He then picked off Ryan Lindley in the end zone to seal our first playoff victory since 2005. Now I can look back at a season well done for Tre Boston, but it turns out the draft analysts were right about one thing. He sometimes gets burned in coverage looking for a big play, but so do many young players, and these flaws can be easily ironed out.
Boston turned out to be the Panthers second highest rated defensive back according to Pro Football Focus with a positive grade of 5.6, second to only Bene Benwikere who had a positive score of 7.6. This doesn't mean Boston is actually the Panthers second best DB, I’d still give Josh Norman the edge over he and Benwikere at the moment. What it does signal, is a promising sample size from a raw player who missed much of the preseason and regular season only to be thrown into the fire against several dynamic passing teams. Barring injury, Boston should have a very solid preseason, and step on the field week one much better than when he left it the last time.
He joins a group of defensive backs in Josh Norman, Bene Benwikere, Roman Harper, Kurt Coleman, and Charles Tillman, who all graded out positively last year according to Pro Football Focus. Among these players: Josh Norman, Roman Harper, and Charles Tillman each possess a mean streak on the field. If all plays out as it should, we might need to bring up the “Rude Boyz” title that UNC calls their secondary, a title in which Tre Boston exemplified so well. The Panthers now own a hard hitting, turnover forcing, smothering secondary that might be the envy of the NFC South. Boston will play a key role as the starting free safety and vocal leader in the defense, and I personally can’t wait to see them crush offenses league wide. I hope fellow fans are excited as I am; the pain train is coming, and it boards in the Queen City.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander