by Brian Horace
The Carolina Panthers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with clear objectives and specific needs for both the offense and the defense. Reliable receivers, cornerbacks and safeties were at the top of the list and the Panthers did not disappoint.
The first round saw the Panthers draft D.J. Moore a 6’0 wideout from Maryland. Steve Smith remarked that they may have finally found a suitable replacement in Moore who comes in at 210 points. Listed as an exceptional route runner he brings athleticism and a competitive streak.
The second round saw Carolina address a defensive need b drafting a possible starter in the secondary in Donte Jackson out of LSU. Jackson measures only 5’11 but is a player with swagger that plays above his size and has the speed to be a lockdown defender. With the Panthers lack of depth in the secondary this pick makes good sense for this upcoming season. The Panthers war room added another body to their secondary by drafting Rashaan Gaulden in the third round. Gaulden brings versatility after transitioning from corner back to safety while in college. He’s a player that can definitely find himself getting reps in the Panthers defensive backfield.
The only other offensive player drafted by the Panthers came in round four. Ian Thomas out of Indiana a big tight end who could be the heir apparent to Greg Olsen in a few years if he can become a good understudy. He comes in raw but but did average 15 yards per reception during his senior season. Panthers fans have been clamoring for more targets for Cam Newton and this draft has addressed that need and Thomas particularly will fit well with the two-tight end sets often run by Ron Rivera’s team. The fourth round also saw Carolina pick up Marquis Haynes, an outside linebacker out of Ole Miss. This pick makes sense with the Panthers need to shore up and add depth to their linebacker core. Haynes is as fast a linebacker as there is in the draft and should be able to hone his craft under the tutelage of Julius Peppers.
The fifth round saw another defensive player, Jermaine Carter, from Maryland come of the board. Carter is an inside linebacker who possesses a great ability to rush the quarterback as well as stop the run. He will most likely find a spot on special teams but helps again with the depth issues that the Panthers were looking to address.
Andre Smith from North Carolina may be the steal of the draft on the defensive side of the ball. As an inside linebacker he again provides depth. This seventh round pick gets to stay home and learn from Luke Kuechly, who he has been compared to stylistically and impact wise. He’s a run stopper and is extremely quick. He’s coming off of an injury year that started with a lot of promise and if he can get to where he was pre-injury, he may be the best defensive player drafted by the Panthers. Also in the seventh round Kendrick Norton out of Miami, a 6’2, 312lb defensive tackle was grabbed by Carolina. Norton is known as a good run stuffer and going along with the theme for the Panthers this draft he has speed for days for this position.
All in all the Panthers did what they set out to do, they go better, they go deeper. It remains to be seen if it’s enough to compete with the roster the New Orleans Saints one other NFC stalwarts have acquired but this is a step in the right direction for Ron Rivera and company.
Brian Horace is a writer that loves sports, Duke in particular. You can visit his site at www.dukeblogger.com