2017 Carolina Panthers’ Draft & OTA Review

The Panthers needed speed at running back, wide receiver, and the return game. Mission accomplished. Christian McCaffrey is one of the quickest and fastest backs in the draft and a close second is Curtis Samuel. Dave Gettleman, Panthers’ general manager, tabbed him in the second round. Both talents are highly charged returners. Christian McCaffrey impressed the Carolina brass with his explosive speed in mini-camp. He reportedly made everyone else look like they were tied to a fence post. His stop to top speed is Porsche-like. The Panthers needed to upgrade team speed. McCaffrey and second round pick Samuel will make Carolina fans forget speedster Ted Ginn now in New Orleans. McCaffrey received most of his work at running back during the rookie mini-camp but also took reps at wide receiver and slot where he showcased his nimble and sure hands. The productive former Stanford athlete has energized the Panther fans like Cam Newton did in 2011. Because of the NFL graduation rule McCaffrey did not report to OTAs until June 13th. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel was a dominant player in the rookie mini-camp and didn’t let up in OTAs with the veterans. Described as electric as former Panther Steve Smith but faster. The former Buckeye impressed with his foot quickness and rare balance that throws defenders off when trying to tackle him. During one-on-one work veteran corner Teddy Williams overextended his hand jam and Samuels went around him and left him on the ground. Was drafted to give the receiving corps more speed and playmaking ability. The early returns are all positive. Taylor Moton was the final selection of the second round that the Panthers received in a trade with New England. Carolina grabbed two dynamic playmakers first, but Moton will be a key to protect Cam Newton. Moton is getting work at right tackle with Michael Oher out of OTAs. Oher has not cleared concussion protocol which kept him out of the final 13 games of 2016. The former Western Michigan four-year starter will compete with Daryl Williams to start, but will be a valuable chess piece at either tackle or guard as a fourfor- one swing lineman if he doesn’t crack the starting lineup. Unrestricted signee Matt Kalil will start at left tackle. Defensive end Daeshon Hall is getting the opportunity to learn from Panther all-time great Julius Peppers on the nuances to beat an offensive lineman and get to the quarterback. He will also be backup to Charles Johnson and Mario Addison. Hall played opposite Myles Garrett at Texas A&M and is an athletic pass rusher in his own right. The Panthers traded up to the 77th selection with Arizona to secure Hall. Corn Elder was specifically drafted to play nickel corner for the Panthers as was Zach Sanchez in 2016. Sanchez didn’t live up to expectations and failed to make the regular roster. Elder’s battle with Sanchez will be one to watch in training camp. The former Hurricane is a good technique player with excellent footwork. Conversion selection Alex Armah played linebacker, defensive end, and tight end as a senior at Division II West Georgia. Armah was drafted as a fullback prospect. He will compete with Darrel Young for a roster spot. The Panthers like his receiving skills, movement, and toughness. Pro day numbers: 6001, 244, 4.71/40, 26/BP, 34.5/VJ, 10-2/BJ, 4.31/SS, and 7.05/3 cone. Harrison Butker was drafted to compete with Graham Gano who is coming off his worst statistical year with the team and has seen his field goal percentage drop each of the last four years. He also missed on 11 field goal attempts over 40 yards the last two years. In 2016 Gano had a low of 78.9%. Butker hit on 15 of 17 field goal attempts last fall. He also connected on 208 out of 210 PATs the past four years. Butker is the first kicker drafted in Carolina history. He was the all-time leading scorer at Tech with 337 points and ranked 13th among FBS kickers with a field goal percentage of 88.2%. Butker hit four of four field goals of 23, 26, 44, and 52 yards in Tech’s win in the 2017 Taxslayer Bowl. He kicked three of three PATs and had touchbacks on all seven kickoffs. GRADE: GOOD.

FREE AGENCY: Left tackle Matt Kalil joins his brother Ryan on the offensive line. The Carolina line has been in flux for a few years and it is paramount that Cam Newton be protected. A pair of former Panther defenders, Julius Peppers (DE) and Captain Munnerlyn (CB) were also signed. Wide receiver Russell Shepard was signed to compete for a starting job.

NOTABLE UNDRAFTED COLLEGE FREE AGENTS: Fred Ross (Mississippi State) WR, Bryan Cox Jr. (Florida) DE, and Ben Boulware (Clemson) IB.

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