Numerous reports suggest that Christian McCaffrey will be chosen in the top 10. There's been mixed reaction to that around the league, but I could see it happening, especially considering that coaches could see McCaffrey as a matchup nightmare. Charlie Campbell discussed this in a NFL Draft Stock Report update.
If McCaffrey is picked in the top 10, Carolina is an obvious landing spot. The Panthers need a new running back with Jonathan Stewart hitting 30 this offseason. Plus, I'm sure Cam Newton would love having a dynamic player like McCaffrey with him in the backfield.
*** OTHER 2017 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Solomon Thomas, DE - Here's another spot for Thomas if McCaffrey happens to be available. Carolina has a couple of older edge rushers, so young blood is needed.
2. Marshon Lattimore, CB - The Panthers tend to take the top player on their board, so if that's Lattimore, it would make a lot of sense as a replacement for Josh Norman.
Rd. 2, Pk. 8
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
The Panthers could add another tight end, just as the Chargers did with Hunter Henry despite having Antonio Gates on the roster. Greg Olsen has a couple more years left in Carolina, and the Panthers could stand to give Cam Newton another weapon.
It would make sense for the Panthers to give up one of their second-rounders to move up for Leonard Fournette. He could be phenomenal for Carolina and would match up well against some of the undersized defensive lines in the NFC South. If the Panthers don't move up for Fournette, I could see them taking McCaffrey given his running ability, great football character, and what he would bring to their passing attack.
In 2016, McCaffrey averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 37 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns through the air, too. McCaffrey also was a dangerous punt returner.
In my opinion, McCaffrey should have won the 2015 Heisman Trophy because he carried Stanford all season. McCaffrey was a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touched the ball. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field with vision, cutting ability and elusiveness. In 2015, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores.
McCaffrey (5-11, 202) looks undersized, but he still should be a first or second-rounder. Teams love his work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Demarcus Walker, DE/3-4OLB, Florida State
The Panthers grab an edge rusher to groom behind Julius Peppers.
In 2016, Walker totaled 68 tackles with those 16 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two passes batted. He caught fire in the second half against Ole Miss to record 4.5 sacks and help lead Florida State to a huge comeback win over the Rebels.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder broke out in 2015 with 10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, five passes broken up and 58 tackles. He was a tough edge rusher for the Seminoles. Sources told me that they were projecting Walker to the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft prior to him announcing he would return for his senior year.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
David Sharpe, OT, Florida
The Panthers could use a right tackle candidate considering the uncertain status for Michael Oher.
Sharpe was a solid left tackle for the Gators. He is a good run blocker and a better athlete with more quickness than one would think. Sharpe had a good first half against Tennessee's Derek Barnett before struggling in the second half.
For the NFL, Sharpe would probably be best as a guard or right tackle. As a sophomore in 2015, Sharpe saw action at both tackle positions. He was a good run blocker who flashed some pass-protection skills. Sharpe (6-6, 343) needs to improve his pass blocking for the NFL, but he has upside to develop. Sharpe needs to keep his weight in check and avoid lethargy.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Josh Jones, S, N.C. State
The Panthers could use more talent at safety and have shown interest in Jones.
Jones (6-2, 215) was a solid player for the Wolfpack over the past three seasons. He is a strong safety type for the NFL and plays with an aggressive and relentless nature. Jones had 109 tackles with eight passes batted and three interceptions as a junior before deciding to skip his senior year. He recorded 63 tackles as a sophomore with 56 stops in 2014. Jones snagged four interceptions as a redshirt freshman.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Travin Dural, WR, LSU
The Panthers grab some wide receiver depth.
Sources say that Dural had early round potential before a torn hamstring injury. Perhaps he will recover his speed and suddenness after getting further from the injury. In 2016, Dural had 28 receptions for 280 yards with one touchdown. He totaled 28 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2015, but also had two long touchdowns against Mississippi State called back on penalties. Even with inconsistent quarterback play in 2014, Dural was one of the SEC's breakout performers. He averaged 21 yards per catch with 37 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder plays larger than his size, yet has the quickness to make an impact downfield. Dural had the potential to produce more over his career, but LSU had awful quarterback play and kept the ball on the ground a lot.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval
The Panthers grab some tight end depth to go behind Greg Olsen.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Kyle Kalis, G, Michigan
The Panthers could take some interior offensive line depth and have shown interest in Kalis.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Tanner Vallejo, ILB, Boise State
The Panthers have hosted Vallejo and could use some linebacker depth.
There was perhaps no other bigger disappointment in the NFL in 2016 than the Carolina Panthers. After a 15-1 season and Super Bowl appearance, the Panthers seemed primed for greatness lead by reigning MVP Cam Newton. Those hopes were dashed almost instantly, as the team’s season eventually sputtered to a 6-10 record. It's hard to place the blame on one particular issue; with Newton’s inaccuracy, flaccid run game, and below average play from one of the best defenses in the NFL all playing a contributing factor. Despite their flaws, head coach Ron Rivera and GM Dave Gettleman always respond to adversity, and 2017 should be no different. The Panthers boasted the league's top offense a year ago, but finished at a mediocre fifteenth this past season. While Jonathan Stewart is still a serviceable running back, the 30-year old veteran isn't going to be around forever, and it may be time for the Carolina front office to start planning for the long-term future at the running back position to help take some of the pressure off Cam Newton. At 6’1 and 235 pounds, LSU’s Leonard Fournette is the draft’s top running back prospect. A true generational talent, Fournette is the best college running back since Todd Gurley burst his way on to the scene. A consensus All-American, Fournette put together over 4,000 all purpose yards and 80 total touchdowns during his stay in Death Valley. Before he even took his first snap at LSU, Fournette was already drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Herschel Walker. Fournette is the real deal, possessing a rare combination of power, strength and speed that will drive fear into the hearts of any NFL defender. Though injuries and wear and tear on his legs may cause concern for some scouts, the former Tiger is a can’t-miss prospect and will be an instant game-changer for this Panthers team, which is exactly what they need to get back on track in 2017.
The Panthers have to improve their offensive line, and I think they will spend heavily on it in free agency. That would allow Carolina to find its running back of the future and get a special talent in Cook to lead an improved rushing attack that could help reduce the pounding on Cam Newton. <br> <br>
In 2016, Cook averaged 6.0 yards per carry for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 33 receptions for 488 yards. Cook (5-10, 210) is well-built and has the speed to slash through a defense; however, he has some strange ball-security issues. Cook also has some power to him, but he seems to use it selectively as he runs out of bounds often and is consistently looking to bounce runs to the outside. In the passing game, Cook is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield and will be a weapon there. He reminds me of a young Marshall Faulk. <br> <br>
Teams do have some off-the-field concerns about Cook and his character. He escaped some legal issues last year, but teams say that Cook has an entourage of gangbangers and they worry Cook drinks too much. Staying out of trouble is a concern that teams have.
With Jameis Winston in the NFL, Cook carried the Florida State offense in 2015. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his way to 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns. The sophomore also had 24 receptions for 244 yards and a score. As a true freshman in 2014, Cook averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 22 passes for 203 yards, too.
In a draft flush with edge rushers, Thomas' pro-ready game stands out. He is not only quick enough to beat blockers off the snap, he is powerful, showing the grown-man strength, advanced hand technique and high-revving motor to make plays even when initially contained. Further, Thomas possesses many of the intangibles that project well to the challenges of life as a professional athlete, including the intelligence, maturity and even worldliness (he lived in Australia for five years) that should help ease his transition to the NFL.
Given his size, the greatest question regarding Thomas might be his fit. Smaller than most defensive tackles and lacking the burst and bend scouts generally prefer off the edge, Thomas is not exactly a traditional defensive lineman. He is powerful enough to handle two-gap responsibilities, however, and possesses the quickness to penetrate, projecting as a difference-maker almost regardless of scheme.
2016 First Round Pick: Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (30)
2016 Offense Rankings: Total (19) Pass (21) Rush (10)
2016 Defense Rankings: Total (21) Pass (29) Rush (6)
2017 Projected Salary Cap Space: $46,568,741
(1) Stewart ($6.25 M)
(2) Soliai ($2.5 M)
GM: Dave Gettleman
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Wilks
Offensive Scheme: Erhardt-Perkins
Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Needs: (1) OT, (2) 43DE, (3) CB, (4) RB, (5) S
LEO: (1) Barnett (2) Webster
NT: (1) Lotulelei (2) Alecxih
DT: (1) Butler (2) Love
DE: (1) Horton (2) Ealy
NFL.com Grade: 6.21 ESPN Grade: 91
NFL Comparison: Nick Perry
Measurables: H: 6'3 W: 268 40: 4.75
The defensive line talent seen in the Southeastern Conference makes it difficult to make an all-conference squad. Barnett made the honor roll three times in three years. The Nashville native was the first freshman ever to start on the line for Tennessee in 2014, making 20.5 tackles for loss (which led the SEC) and 10 sacks on the year. Barnett led the Vols with 10 more sacks in 2015, earning a spot on the Associated Press All-Bowl Team with eight tackles and a sack versus Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. In his junior year, Barnett was a first-team All-SEC pick and first-team All-American by multiple outlets with 18 tackles for loss and 12 sacks (which ranked sixth in the FBS).
Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub packages.
Always in lockstep with Garrett from a production standpoint, Barnett continues to improve his game and he’s produced like a top-five pick in his three-year career at Tennessee. This season, he has the No. 1 pass rush grade among Power-5 edge defenders at 92.4 as he’s adept at using his hands to shed blocks both as a rusher and in the run game.
It’s an SEC 1-2-3 at the top of this draft class, with Barnett pushing Myles Garrett close for the nation’s top edge defender in each of the past two seasons. His 62 total pressures, including 12 sacks and 18 hits, from the defensive end position give him a pass-rushing productivity rating of 14.9, good for the sixth-best mark at the position in college this year, while he has been a solid run defender in each of the past three seasons too.
Barnett has been one of the best players in college football since he touched the field his talent has been significantly been over looked as his co-draftee Garrett has garnered most of the hype.
Barnett could defiantly help the Panthers pass rush as their ends have some age and they have some players that may be lost to Free Agency.
The Panthers made a huge mistake not upgrading their offensive tackles last offseason. This offseason, Carolina has to get at least one tackle upgrade to protect Cam Newton. <br> <br>
Robinson (6-6, 310) has played well in 2016 overall, consistently opening holes in the ground game and showing improved technique in pass protection. He shut down Arkansas' Deatrich Wise Jr., and there was only one ugly play where Ole Miss' Marquis Haynes bull rushed Robinson. Against Tennessee, Derek Barnett beat Robinson for a strip-sack and some other pressures. Robinson had some wins as well, but it showed that Robinson isn't an elite, "top of the draft," shutdown left tackle prospect. He had a better game against Myles Garrett, keeping the Aggies' superstar from recording a sack. Robinson looks quicker and more athletic this season than in past years. Sources say that Robinson lost 10-15 pounds over last offseason and that it paid off. <br> <br>
Robinson was a freshman sensation for the Crimson Tide in 2014 and started every game at left tackle after arriving at Alabama. He was the leader on an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks in 2014. It didn't go as well in 2015 as Robinson allowed pressure and sacks on the quarterback, especially early in the year. He was better down the stretch, however, and it isn't all that surprising that he seems to have taken his play to another level in 2016. <br> <br>
For the NFL, Robinson could be best in the long run at right tackle. If he plays left tackle, he could be above-average. Some sources have compared him to the Buccaneers' Donovan Smith. Robinson provides an impact as a run blocker and has the potential to be a reliable pass protector. On a different note, he was able to skate on an arrest over the offseason before the 2016 season for possession of pot and an illegal gun. <br> <br>
I'm sure it's because your "NFL Matches" section is just the usual copy/pasta from other scouting report articles, but I literally spit out my drink reading you suggest Mixon as a fit for the Ravens. Zero chance that happens lol.
*EASTER UPDATE* WITH TRADES RD2, 3, & 4 ORDER IS RANDOM for trades that usually happen.
Used draft-site`s approach as a general guide. Really like their ranking system as it uses a hi-low rubric to rank each player. Took several ranking sites and averaged out player rankings. Used my own rankings for players I feel were ranked much too low. F/A updates with a few players still looking for a new home. Will update as they sign. Will see teams reach for QB & OT. 3 days till drafttime !! No big trades announced yet.