The past two draft classes have been loaded with depth and talent, this is why scouting undrafted free agents is so important. Last year Gettleman was able to bring in big contributors to our team, and starters in Philly Brown and Andrew Norwell. At this time, we have signed 10 undrafted free agents and invited one to our rookie minicamp. Even though we didn't bring in a couple of the names I really wanted, I am more than excited for this crop of players. I’ll try my best to rank these players off their potential to make the team, and give my prediction for their future.
11. Matt Wile, Punter, Michigan
Wile was a jack of all trades at Michigan, handling the punting and kicking duties. Even though he was impressive at punting this last season, I think the Panthers are more than happy with Brad Nortman.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster, may see him in preseason though.
10. Daniel Blitch, Offensive Guard, Charlotte (Minicamp)
The 6’6’’ 343 pound 49er is a big man to say the least. He technically wasn't signed as an undrafted free agent, but has been invited to participate in the rookie minicamp. He’s a big body and the city of Charlotte will certainly be behind him.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster, could develop into practice squadder.
9. Terry Redden, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
The decision to draft David Mayo over Michael Bennett certainly was a perplexing one. Gettleman has said that he wants players who have certain fire deep in their belly, and Bennett’s work ethic has been questioned in the past. Either way, we have little young depth behind Star and Short; and we will need to address the defensive tackle spot in the future. Redden is a little slim for a D tackle at 270 pounds, but he does have a good motor. Expect a young unknown defensive tackle to establish himself within the next few years, Redden could be the guy.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster.
8. Brian Blechen, Strong Safety, Utah
The Panthers have brought in two strong safeties in undrafted free agency so far. Safety is probably the thinnest position on the roster right now, especially when you consider Roman Harper is one paycheck away from retirement. Blechen can lay the wood on a tackle, even crushing second round pick Devin Funchess in one game. He has good size at 6’2’’, but his coverage skills are questionable. Even though he can drop a player like a sack of dirt on a tackle, he has missed his fair share too.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster.
7. Darious Cummings, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Cummings has a good body for the defensive tackle position, and comes from a good school too. Cummings violated team rules twice at Florida, and got suspended. This past season he had 30 tackles (5 for a loss) and 2 sacks. Decent numbers, but it is no surprise he went undrafted.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster anytime soon, worth keeping an eye on though.
6. Steve Miller, Defensive End, Ohio State
This is a story about Steve Miller and Noah Spence too, a few young players and one had nothing better to do. Aside from my poor attempt to recreate a classic Steve Miller song, there is an interesting story surrounding Ohio State’s edge rushers. Noah Spence got suspended an entire year for an ecstasy charge, and Miller got a bigger role. Miller split time at defensive end and made some plays, including a huge pick 6 in the Sugar Bowl vs Alabama. He’s an under the radar guy who could blossom and stick to an NFL roster. Will he take the money and run?
Prediction: Won’t make final roster, keep your eye on him though.
5. Brandon Wegher, Running Back, Morningside College
Here is where we start to get to the meat of the undrafted free agents. Wegher was a freshman star for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but fell off the rails a little bit and found himself at Morningside College, a NAIA school. After having a pedestrian first season at his new school, He blew up last year to the tune of 2610 rushing yards (8 yards a carry), 429 receiving yards, and 43 total touchdowns (39 rushing and 4 receiving). These are great numbers, even at a school that small. I view him as a guy who can be our future fullback when Tolbert is gone, and be a reliable rushing threat too.
Prediction: Going to say he sticks on the practice squad, and may gain traction for the future vacancy at full back.
4. Dean Marlowe, Strong Safety, James Madison
Here is the second strong safety to grace this list. Marlowe has the attitude you want lining up in the box. He has a mean streak, and will put you on the turf. Like Blechen, he struggles in coverage, but is pretty consistent overall. He has a bunch to work on, and will be given the opportunity to do so. Gettleman is turning the Panthers into a smash mouth football team, and Marlowe would fit right in.
Prediction: Won’t make the final roster this year, but could find himself with an inside track to a rotational role after spending a year on the practice squad.
3. Arthur Miley, Defensive End, Southern
I am really excited about these top three guys. Miley is just a freak, he is 6’5.5”, 264 pounds, and runs a 4.77. He is smooth, fluid, and can change direction in the blink of an eye. He will need to get stronger and develop a quicker first step, but he has tremendous upside. I think he is a better prospect than fellow UDFA Wes Horton, who has played many snaps on the Panther's Defense.
Prediction: Won’t make final roster this year, could potentially carve out a niche in the Panther’s defensive end rotation.
2. Damiere Byrd, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
Call this guy Delta Airlines, because he can absolutely fly. This is to be expected from a former track star. Chris Johnson better be glad Byrd wasn't invited to the combine; Byrd would’ve shattered his record 40 time in my opinion. Since he didn't receive an invite to the Combine, lets compare his Pro Day results to the top combine results.
- 40 Time: Byrd ran a 4.28 40 at his Pro Day, this would’ve been tied with JJ Nelson for number 1 at this year’s Combine. However, Byrd ran his 40 on grass. According to NFL Senior Analyst, Gil Brandt, grass 40 times are .13 seconds slower than turf 40 times. 40 times at the Combine are clocked on a turf medium. Also, despite being an inch taller, JJ Nelson was 17 pounds lighter than Byrd when they were clocked. So it’s safe to say Byrd would’ve bested Nelson’s 40 with ease if he attended the combine, and probably Chris Johnson’s record time as well.
- Vertical Jump: Byrd had a 42 inch vertical, this would’ve tied him for second at this years combine among receivers.
- Broad Jump: Byrd registered a 10’11’’ broad jump, this would have tied him with Sammie Coates for the third longest jump among receivers.
- 3 Cone Drill: Byrd registered a 3 cone drill of 6.6 seconds, this would have landed him in the top three receivers at this year’s combine.
- 60 and 20 Yard Shuttles: Byrd ran the 20 yard shuttle in 4.03 seconds, good for second among receivers at this year’s combine. He then posted a blistering 60 yard shuttle time of 10.9 seconds, this time at the combine would have put him #1 among any combine entrant and .24 seconds above any receiver. He has long and short speed, which is scary.
Prediction: As you can see, his measurables consist of more than just a fast 40 time. Even though he is just 5’9’’ he could contribute to our offense in many ways. He will need to get stronger and expand his route tree, but him earning the starting spot at WR #3 isn't out of the question. I just say draw him a vertical route and let him do his thing.
1. Garry Peters, Cornerback, Clemson
By now, it must be hard to believe that there is a UDFA I’m more excited about than Damiere Byrd. There is, and he’s a backyard baller from Clemson. Peters was one of the purest cover corners in this class, and he has good size at six foot flat. He dropped because of a 40 time in the 4.6s, and a grabby oft penalized style of play. Pro Football Focus had him as their highest graded undrafted cornerback, he only allowed 233 yards in coverage all season!
Prediction: If he refines his technique, he could easily take Melvin White’s spot in the rotation. I wouldn't be surprised if he took Charles Tillman’s starting spot after this season. Peters has a bright future, definitely one to be very excited about.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander