I want to provide my follow-up to the great summary already provided by James. Of course, our (fans) opinions will be as widely diverse as the oft-ignorant experts. Also, while it is SOP to assign a grade to picks and to drafts as a whole, doing so at this point is merely an attempt to quantify how picks separately and collectively make you feel, based on:
- Sense of team needs and strengths
- Personal opinions about prospects (skills, character, college, etc.)
- Personal opinions about our current players
- Confidence in the Front Office, Coaches, and Scouts (FROCS for short)
- Individual personalities (optimist vs. pessimist, open-minded vs. skeptical, Tigger vs. Eeyore)
Most of the members here are highly knowledgeable about the Panthers, and many of us have done a lot of research on prospects and subsequent draftees. By research I mean, reading the analysis from many "eggsperts," stir in the "dry" measurables, and combine with varying doses of YouTube and alcohol for added flavor. Mix and bake, and you've got your own personal cake. Mine are below...
#1: They turned the key on the CamzAm. I wasn't among the many residents of Camelot, having the standard concerns about his transitional capabilities from the one-read spread offense, especially with two "can't miss" defensive studs available. However, it was widely known that our FROCS were vetting Newton to an unprecedented extent. This pick will determine the success, not just of this draft, but of the Panthers as a team for years to come, and I know it wasn't made lightly. I feel very, very good about the pick. For better or worse, we're married to it.
#65 and #97: This is definitely a tandem statement that we will not be soft in the middle of our defense. Hankerson was available here, but these picks show me that Rivera has priorities and bad intentions toward opposing offenses. I thought we would go with Ellis and Nevis, but McClain and Fua must have looked better to Rivera and McDermott. Again, I think they know what they want to do on defense, and who best to make it happen. So, I'm enjoying some Pound cake; heavy and leaves you feelin' stuffed.
#98: Brandon Hogan, CB...whoa. I wasn't surprised we went CB, but I knew nothing about this dude, so I had to start looking. Putting the pieces together from several analysts, you get that he's very talented and athletic, gets beat sometimes by trying to bait the QB -- plus, 2 DUIs and a torn ACL. Yikes. Then I hit YouTube (thank you to whomever put the link in the draft thread), and I found what looks like may be the best value pick in our draft. I mean, a CB with speed, ball skills, that hits like a safety. He allows no YAC, is a great tackler in run support, and will separate the WR from the ball with bone-crushing hits. This pick fills a need, and affirms again that we will not be cupcakes. I can't ignore the red flags, but otherwise I love this pick.
#132: Kealoha Pilares, WR - I had read R.C. Fischer's glowing report on Pilares as compared to other "small" WRs and his overall rating comparing very favorably to that of Torrey Smith (picked #58 by the Ravens), and most closely resembling Pierre Garcon, Steve Smith, and Percy Harvin. Others have compared him to Devon Bess and Wes Welker. Some people think it was a reach, or we could have gotten him later. By my count, Pilares was the 17th WR drafted, and I think it would have been very risky to wait longer. Personally, I'm thrilled with the pick, even more so if Smitty leaves. And FWIW, I don't think it means anything with regard to Armanti Edwards. Put Pilares in the slot and watch him turn DBs inside out and upside down.
#166: Lawrence Wilson, LB - He may not show off-the-chart athleticism for a LB, but he was extremely productive. His stats tell me he has the intangibles (instincts, football IQ) to be an excellent backup and future prospect at WLB, while contributing immediately on Special Teams. This pick lacks the "WOW" factor, but it's a solid 6th round pickup. Yes, we could have taken an O-Lineman here; but I'm assuming they just didn't have "D. Love" for an OL at this point.
#203: Zach Williams, G/C - Lord knows we need a backup center, just in case. Yet Williams also provides needed depth at Guard. He has a "good motor and a mean streak," but he's clearly not ready to start in the NFL. There may have been some better pure Guards available, but being able to play Center makes this another solid pick.
#244: Lee Ziemba, OT - I guess I could just say 6'8", 317 lbs and leave it at that, but I won't. I didn't see any pre-draft mocks that had Ziemba lasting past the 4th round. He was dominant in the Senior Bowl at Left Tackle, was a 4-year starter, and knows how to block for Cam. But he does apparently lack the athleticism to handle the edge in the NFL, so will likely move inside at least for awhile. With a little work, I can see Ziemba fighting for a starting job at Guard, and in the meantime provides valuable O-Line depth.
I grouped the last three together, because they're not really polished and ready to play as is. But add a little coaching and strength/conditioning, any or all of them could be serviceable starters. For now, they are plain ol' angel food, but let's add some toppings and see what happens.
I guess you could say I'm very satisfied by our draft buffet. But, I'm still hungry for some actual football. Grab a plate and weigh in on your favorite selection(s).