After Leonard Fournette went to the Jaguars at #4, the Panthers were targeting three players: Jamal Adams, Christian McCaffrey, and O.J. Howard. The Jets took Adams at #6, leaving Carolina to choose between the dynamic running back from Stanford and the well-rounded tight end from Alabama. Thomas Davis announced that the #8 selection by Carolina would be Christian McCaffrey.
#8 Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
Described as the Swiss Army Knife of players, this guy's physical stature may not be overly imposing, but his game sure is. His last two season were prolific, averaging 6.2 ypc and 12.2 ypr. He's a threat out of the backfield, motioned in the slot, or slipping between the tackles. Lance Taylor, now Panthers wide receiver coach who was also McCaffrey's running back coach at Stanford, pumped his fist in the war room when Dave Gettleman decided that McCaffrey was the guy to help Carolina's offense regain its explosivity. Panther Nation is collectively pumping its fist thinking of the fits that Newton and McCaffrey will create for opposing defense.
#40 Curtis Samuel (WR/RB, OSU)
Talk about doubling down on speed and versatility, the Panthers selected a guy who nearly out-McCaffried McCaffrey in college. The 5'11, 196 lbs wideout runs a 4.31-40yds and slips would-be tacklers nearly as good as our first round pick. Resembling a Brandin Cooks, Samuel can be a deadly threat in multiple ways. Whether it is the end-around that Ginn turned teams on their head around, a wide-receiver screen that Smitty to do so well, or taking the top off a defense with that 4.3 speed, Samuel adds a spark to an offense that in rounds 1 and 2 alone became a much faster and versatile group. As one fan put it, "These guys are going to be match-up nightmares, and when paired with KB, Olsen, and Cam's oh my lord defensive coordinators are going to be unhappy."
#64 Taylor Moton (OT, WMU) acquired from Patriots for Kony Ealy
Three picks, all offense. Carolina has committed to helping Cam Newton by giving him weapons and now giving him security. Taylor Moton is one mammoth of a man! Weighing in at 6'5/319lbs, this guy and those big ole bear mitts has been brought in to play offensive tackle. As Carolina continues to wait to see if Michael Oher will return for the 2017 season and if Daryl Williams can become a starter, Carolina went and got a little depth to add to this offensive line. Josh Norris ranked Moton as his #37 prospect, making him a great value for Carolina at #64. Drafting Moton was historic for Carolina, making the first time in team history that the team has drafted three offensive players in the first two rounds.
#77 Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M) acquired from Cardinals for #98 and #115
After bringing home Julius Peppers, signing Mario Addison, and securing interior pass-rusher Kawaan Short for the long-haul, defensive line wasn't the top priority for the Carolina Panthers, but one that needed to be strengthened for the future. Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers are temporary answers at defensive end. Hall is a high-motor player who will need some development. Weighing in at 265 lbs, Hall will need to put on some weight and refine his technique as a pass-rusher. Studying under Peppers, Addison, and Johnson, Hall could be a nice addition that will show its value in the coming years.
Clearly the regression of Carolina's offense in 2016 was something that Dave Gettleman and Ron Rivera believed needed to be addressed aggressively. It was a bit surprising to see Gettleman pass on some high level defensive prospects, but the speed and versatility of McCaffrey and Samuel should be a nice compliment to the size of Carolina's offense. The Bills caused fits for Carolina in this draft, poaching potentially two prospects we were eyeing seriously--Zay Jones and Dion Dawkins. After seeing Worley go at #74, who the Panthers met with in the weeks leading to the draft, Carolina prioritized getting a pass-rusher who may be a project but also has a nice upside.
By Tony Dunn
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