Conventional wisdom says that Carolina will draft an OT and WR in the first two rounds. After looking and seeing how the Panthers “dropped the Ball” in Free Agency, I expect one of those two rounds to be spent on a CB. I do say they dropped the Ball with part of my tongue in my cheek. We have upgraded the roster in several spots. But where we were unsuccessful in seeking a Corner. This article speaks to what I think the implications to the Panthers draft-strategy is.
"The purpose of this roster-building time is to put yourself in a position so that when you get to the draft, it's not, 'I've got to have this. I've got to have that,' " says GM David Gettleman. He has set out to do just that this off season. And he has been successful in that he no longer has to draft a Tackle early, as he has signed both Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin. Both of whom graded higher than last year’s starting Left Tackle, Byron Bell. He no longer has to draft a WR early, as he brought in Jarrett Boykin. Before losing playing time last year to rookie DeVante Adams, Boykin had 648 yards (which is more than any Panther WR last year not named Kelvin Benjamin). And Gettleman had a slew of signings that bolster our Special Teams, like Ted Ginn, Jr., Teddy Williams and Special Team Ace Jason Trusnik. So the Panthers seem to be set up and Gettleman achieved what he set out to do.
Or did he? Gettleman went on to say, "We're still kind of futzing with a couple of guys. We'll see what happens." This statement was before Allan Ball signed with Chicago. So unless he can find a starting caliber CB, I think the next paragraph describes the situation.
Dropping The Ball:
Alan Ball is the only FA that we targeted that told us no. Greg Jennings still hasn't decided and we signed another WR anyway. But we've signed no other CB. Some contend it isn't a real need because towards the end of the year our CBs really came on strong. Both Josh Gordon and Bene Benwikere ranked very highly in the ProFootballFocus.com rankings (Stiki Wiki (our name for Bene Benwikere) ranked 18th and Josh Norman 27th for the season and both ranked much higher over the last five games). However, there is very little depth behind each of these rising stars and our Nickleback was Colin Jones (who did not crack the top 101). Melvin White is there as a backup but he ranked 94th. This group seems very thin and could have used some help in Free Agency.
The Panthers targeted Jacksonville Jaguar Free Agent CB, Alan Ball. Ball ranked 40th last season and 22nd the year before. He is a starting caliber CB and if signed could have allowed Stiki Wiki to move inside to be the Nickleback. All indications were Alan Ball was close to signing with the Panthers and it almost happened.
No other Free Agent CB has appeared on the team’s radar so it looks like the Ball was dropped. Some say Alan dropped the ball:
Gettleman did not close the deal and some say he dropped the ball. No matter what you call it, the bottom line is we need another CB and badly.
Who Could Be The Target?
Below are the Corners that the Panthers have met with.
Take a look at each of these players and they are all between 5’10 and 6’0 (Jones is the only one that 6’1). The Panthers are seeking a certain type of player and most of them appear to be high character players that also have good ball skills and have shown they can make plays. A few of these guys really looks like intriguing prospect to look at late.
Steve Nelson CB 5’10 Oregon St.
Trae Waynes CB 6’0 Mich St.
Justin Coleman CB 5’10 Tenn
Damian Swann CB 6’0 UGA
Kevin Johnson CB 6’0 Wake
Ronald Darby CB 5’11 Florida State
D’Joun Smith CB 5'10 Florida Atlantic
Deshazor Everett CB 6'0 Texas A&M
Quinten Rollins CB 5'11 Miami (Ohio)
JaCorey Shepherd CB 5'11 Kansas
Byron Jones CB 6'1 Connecticut
Who Makes Sense At 25?
There only appears to be two players on this list that would be in play at 25 and they would be Trae Waynes and Kevin Johnson. Waynes most certainly will be gone when the Panthers pick and I do find it hard to believe that only one CB is drafted in the top 24 picks, so I believe Johnson will be gone too. But if either are there, they will certainly be in play.
Keep an eye out to see if the Panthers visit with any other CBs prior to the draft. Jalen Collins and Marcus Peters could be in play but I don’t think we make a First Round Pick without spending time with them. If the Panthers meet with either of these two prior to Draft Day, they could be the selection.
Who Makes Sense At 57?
From this list, the most intriguing player to me is Ronald Darby. He ran a 4.38 and has good size and very much could make sense at Pick 57. One player not on this list that I am high on is Utah CB Eric Rowe. If he pops up on the visit list, look out for him to be in play at 57 or perhaps 89.
In summary, the Panthers find themselves with very little depth at CB. Since they could not sign one in Free Agency, I am looking for the Panthers to spend one of their first two picks on a CB. Four names to keep an eye on early are Jalen Collins, Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters, and Ronald Darby. A couple to look for late are Byron Jones, Quinten Rollins and Steve Nelson. I would not be surprised to see them take two CBs in this draft. Thankfully this is one of the deepest CB drafts in recent memory.
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