With the draft in the books time to go back and do a wrap up of how teams made out. I might be a bit of a harsh critic to the top 3 round picks, but that is where you need to hit in the draft to be successful. Sure most of the league is 4th rounders and later, but any that turn into Pro Bowlers or All-Pro players is mostly out of luck. So without further adieu, let's go over one of my favorite drafts in the Carolina Panthers.
1 (7) - Derrick Brown DT Auburn - A+
2 (6) - Yetur Gross-Matos DE Penn St - A+
2 (32) - Jeremy Chinn S Southern Illinois - B+
These have to be my favorite group of picks in the first three rounds in my opinion. The Panthers with their new GM Marty Hurney and new head coach Matt Rhule came in with a mindset to fix this defense and they certainly have done it. It makes a huge amount of sense since they will need to get by the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan to make the playoffs. To me the best defensive prospect in the draft was Derrick Brown. Not because he is a more explosive athlete than Chase Young, but he plays a harder position to defend from an offensive prospective. The quickest way to the quarterback is up the middle and Brown being a superior athlete will not have as much trouble against weaker guards or centers than Young will with better tackles. It is also much harder to throw double blocks Brown's way with teams not wanting to forget about the edge rushers as well. I think Brown will be a huge contributor right out the gate for the Panthers. Then they come around and grab in my opinion the 2nd best edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos. To me he should have gone much higher and to get him in the top of the 2nd round is a huge steal. He has the athletic upside to become a very very dangerous edge rusher once he gets his skills and technique down to marry with his length and speed. Combining a defensive line with Gross-Matos, Brown, a healthy Kawann Short, and last year's first rounder Brian Burns might be a difficult match up for teams in the NFC South. Chinn was a nice get also putting the finishing touches on a very quality first two rounds for the Panthers. He might have some difficulties jumping up in competition, but small school safeties have a tendency to work out.
4 (7) - Troy Pride Jr CB Notre Dame - B
5 (6) - Kenny Robinson S West Virginia - B-
6 (5) - Braivvion Roy DT Baylor - D
7 (7) - Stantley Thomas-Oliver III CB FIU - B
No matter what else they did after their first three picks I think I would have still given this draft an A grade. They only continued to get better by going full on defense. Now I would have liked some new blockers, but with Teddy Bridgewater being able to get rid of the ball quickly to his talented receivers and McCaffrey I feel like it was not a huge need. Especially, since most of these rookie blockers will struggle this year with no OTAs and limited training camps. To me the duo of Pride Jr and Robinson will be able to play right away for the Panthers. Pride Jr is a highly experienced and longer corner from Notre Dame. He slid a lot due to a lack of an upside, which I never understood why that is a negative. Being able to come in and know what you are going to get from a guy to me is a great plus. Plus, picks and interceptions will come as he continues to get better with his coverage skills to be more comfortable to take risks. Same goes for Robinson who has already had pro coaching and experience coming from the XFL. He has some off field worries, but that has more to do with classes and academic ineligibility. In the NFL he should enter in and contribute with Chinn right away. Roy is a project who will at least be a rotational piece for them, but I think a blocker or a receiver could have been more useful here. Thomas-Oliver is a tall tall corner with a lot of upside, which is all you can ask for in a 7th round pick. All in all the Panthers had a plan to improve this defense and to me they succeeded. Sure they could have doubled up with higher rated corners or taken a tackle for the o-line. However, just the first two picks of Brown and YGM I think the Panthers were one of the bigger winners. Overall, I would give this a strong strong A- grade where my only issues were a lack of higher rated corners or blockers. This could be a nice building block draft for the Panthers going forward in a difficult NFC South division.