Carolina Panthers 2014 Draft Class

The 2014 NFL draft came and went fairly quickly. There weren't too many big shockers this year minus the great Johnny Football falling to the 22nd pick. After the draft ended, everyone scrambled to research their new players and grade the teams on their efforts in the draft. The consensus for the Carolina Panthers draft class grade is at about a C.  
As a die hard Panthers fan, I’m torn between this year’s draft picks. Obviously, I’m giving the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt and I will grade the Panthers with a B-.
With the first round pick, the Panthers selected Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver from Florida State University. Although I was hoping for an offensive lineman, I still really like this pick. Benjamin easily has the skills to be a starter at the beginning of the season. He is a huge target for quarterback Cam Newton, who has a tendency to let the ball fly high sometimes. Benjamin also gives the Panthers a different threat in the red zone other than Mike Tolbert smashing the ball down the middle. 

I wanted an offensive lineman in the 1st because this is the one position that the Panthers failed to address in the off season, whereas for the wide receiver position, three players were already picked up. However, Jason Avant and Jericho Cotchery are two veteran players who have a great positive attitude and impact inside the locker room. They should be able to take Benjamin under their wing and show him the ropes while staying out of trouble. That is probably the one thing that Steve Smith would not have been able to do.
EalyWith the 2nd pick the Panthers selected Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy. Ealy is a strong and versatile player who will definitely have an impact from the start of the season. This pick is one of the selections I’m on the fence with. It has nothing to do with Ealy’s physical ability to perform or make plays, but did the Panthers really need another defensive lineman? I understand the Panthers may be preparing for the future, but then what does that mean for this year. Greg Hardy is our best d-line player and he is currently on a one-year franchise tag contract that could send him out next year just like Julius Peppers. If that is the case, Ealy will easily find himself as a starter in that spot next year. However, I would have preferred to address the o-line issue and draft someone who can start this upcoming year and make a huge impact this year and continue onto next year. Aside from that, Ealy is a fantastic player and I welcome him into a Panther’s jersey with open arms.
Trai TurnerFor the 3rd pick the Panthers finally picked up an offensive guard. Trai Turner declared for the draft early from LSU and for this reason was picked up late in the 3rd round. However, Turner checked out of the combine as the fastest guard from the lot. He has fantastic potential and will easily compete for the starting position. I like this pick and consider it a steal for the Panthers because of the talent and performance Turner demonstrated at LSU and in the combine. He will have a direct impact on the offensive from the start of the season.

The 4th and 5th round picks were decent for the Panthers. The safety out of North Carolina and the cornerback out of San Jose State have great potential in the future. The Panthers secondary is very young but very athletic too. Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere will easily compete for playing time on the field and add pressure for everyone else to step up. I like these picks not necessarily because they are the best of the best but because they add depth to a defensive secondary that was plagued with injuries last year. I look forward to watching these young athletes take the field and display what they can do at the professional level.

The last pick for the Panthers was a doozy. No disrespect to Tyler Gaffney, running back from Stanford, but he should not have been picked by the Panthers. Gaffney easily has the talent to easily be a second or third string running back for many teams in the NFL. However the Panthers still have DeAngelo Williams, Jonathon Stewart, Kenjon Barner, and Mike Tolbert. I understand Stewart has a hard time staying healthy and he may get released soon but what about the other three players. There is no way Gaffney will have a spot on the first team. I would have preferred to just get another offensive lineman to add depth. I really hope Gaffney excels and gets picked up by a team that can actually utilize him and give him play time, but there is no spot on the Panthers for him.

Overall, I am pleased with this draft. Sometimes, however, it still feels that the organization has already scrapped out this upcoming season and they are just trying to build for the future. Everything depends on the health of the players and how well the new additions can adapt to the change of pace in the NFL. I still think the NFC South division is the toughest division to play in and the Panthers will have to fight tooth and nail to prevent history from repeating itself, going first to worst. Despite the complete start over mentality with the release of practically everyone on offense, I still have high hopes for at least second place and wild card spot in the playoffs.

Follow +Patrick Newton:  @SirNewton17

Carolina Panthers Draft