FanPost

Why This Was A Good Draft (And I Am Not Being A Homer)

Yes, the Panthers didn't get a WR or DB. But here's the facts: the Panthers needed DT and OL too. Had they taken a CB, WR or safety with their 1st 3 picks, they'd still have those needs on the DT and OL. And since this wasn't a great year for WRs and DBs, there is no telling what quality they would have gotten at those positions either. Lots of the nickel DBs and 3rd-4th WRs in the NFL were guys that teams hoped would be #1 WRs and shutdown corners when they drafted them. Yes, you fill needs with the draft, but you fill them with the best players that you can get. Getting two potentially very good DTs to build your defense - and perhaps also your offensive gameplan - around is better than getting an average CB just so you can tell the draftniks that you filled a need. Going into this season with a hole in the secondary but a much upgraded defensive line better than going into this season still needing a 3rd guy on your DT rotation (yes, both rookies will leapfrog Fua) and pretending that a guy who based on the DB crop this year may not be any better than D.J. Moore or Drayton Florence is going to fill it. Now this is not to say that the Panthers didn't need a safety. Well, blame that on the lack of a 3rd round pick. OK, so Greg Olsen is worth more than a 3rd round pick this year. What about not having a 3rd rounder last year? Even better: blame some of those outrageous contracts on there not being enough money under the cap to sign a safety in free agency this year. Like it or not, the Panthers only had 2 picks in the top 100 so only so much was going to get accomplished. Creating the best DL in the NFC South to create space for the best LBs in the NFC South is plenty to get accomplished.

As for the Edmund Kugbila pick in the 4th round ... let's be honest. A lot of people like that pick - or the whole draft - a lot better if David Bakhtiari, Barrett Jones, Khaled Holmes, Oday Aboushi or even someone who didn't get drafted like Chris Faulk gotten taken there instead. But here's the deal: the Panthers - and a lot of other people - feel that Kugbila has a lot more athletic ability than those guys and will be a much better player than they will be down the line. That if Barrett Jones, for instance, had his ability, he would have joined his mates in the 1st or 2nd round. Another thing: want more evidence that the Panthers intend to improve their run-blocking? Getting a 6'4" 320 lb. interior OL. Add it all up and Kugbila is as good a prospect in the 4th round this year as was Silatolu was in the 2nd last year. Sure, I would have liked it better had Levine Toilolo or another TE been taken in the 4th, but in order to do that, the Panthers would have needed to address the OL in the 3rd. As for the DBs and WRs that the Panthers passed up to take Kugbila ... how many do you suppose will start next season for the teams that took them? The draftniks say that SS Phillip Thomas, who went 11 picks later, MAY start for the Redskins. Not only that, but the draftniks claim the same about David Amerson, whom the Redskins took in the SECOND round. (Note that the Giants took Johnathan Hankins in the 2nd after going OL in the 1st. They also got a DE in the 3rd ... the Giants first 3 picks looked a lot like the Panthers, as they both took players from the best talented positions in the draft.) Another thing: Kugbila's pick allows them to release whoever makes the most money from between Bruce Campbell, Geoff Hangartner and Garry Williams on June 1. (Guess what: it is Hangartner, who counts nearly $2.5 million against the cap.)

The same is true of the last 2 picks. A. J. Klein replaces Kenny Onatolu for a lot less money under the cap. Kenjon Barner turns the battle for the last WR spots among Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis and Joe Adams into simply a competition between those who are better at catching the ball, and yes will get a shot at replacing DeAngelo Williams due to his possessing 3rd down back skills. The people who wanted to use the #14 overall pick to see what Tavon Austin could do in space should know that Barner - who in addition to rushing for nearly 1800 yards last year ran the 60, 100 and 200 meter sprints for the track team - can do, and yes Barner can catch. Incidentally, Barner is also at least an inch taller than Austin and is 15 lbs. heavier, but still ran an unofficial 4.38 yard dash ... nowhere near Tavon Austin's official 4.34 but still plenty fast, which made getting Kugbila to create space for him an even better decision.

Bottom line: all 6 Panthers draft picks will make the team and play this season. What will the draftniks say then?

Finally, the Panthers aren't done with their offseason. They will release more guys - including those who have been replaced with this draft class - and that will allow them to go shopping. They can get an interior OL to hold the fort until Kugbila develops (assuming there is a need to) as well as a safety that is at least as good as Drayton Florence will be at CB just by trying. If they do, that will really show the value of getting 3 guys with the talent to be above average starters at DT and OG instead of just filling needs with rookies who may not ever be any more than average because it wasn't a good year at DB or WR. (BTW ... the WR position is filled for this season anyway ... got spots 1-5 taken care of in Smitty, LaFell, Hixon, Ginn and I say Gettis. The need at WR is for the future, not this year.)

So let the draftniks and naysayers laugh for now. Short, Kugbila and Lotulelei will pay such dividends down the line - as soon as this season perhaps - that the Panthers will get the last laugh.

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