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Senior Bowl week reveals several potential Panthers draft picks

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These are the players that should interest the Panthers leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers traditionally put a lot of focus on Senior Bowl week and the players that stand out. Take for example, cornerback James Bradberry and defensive tackle Vernon Butler. Both players caught the Panthers eye in 2016 with a good week of practice and then a couple nice plays in the game itself. So far I’d call that a 50% hit rate. Bradberry has become a solid starter while Butler has been a disappointment. This after NFL analyst Mike Mayock compared Butler to Linval Joseph, Michael Brockers and Muhammed Wilkerson. [ah hem] How does Mayock keep his job? Oh wait, I forgot the Raiders hired another TV personality in Mayock, this time as general manager. Jon Gruden and Mayock or now running the Raiders. What could go wrong? But I digress...

I’m here to simply say don’t overlook this value of this game. The Panthers have in the past drafted a player in the first round basically because that player played well during this week long evaluation event. Hey, Butler could surprise us with a break season in his fourth season, his first contract year.

Getting back to 2019 here are five players that played well throughout the week that should interest the Panthers. I already mentioned potential first round pick defensive end Montez Sweat earlier but here is a little more on Sweat and his NFL comparison.

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Sweat annihilated everyone he matched up against today during the South team practice. He’s going to end up being picked in the top 10, and his performance on Tuesday demonstrates why he’s going to be selected so early.

The former Mississippi State star showed that he has developed a few different moves with his hands, and he also showed some variety in how he rushed guys. The bottom line is he used his length to defeat blockers in pass protection on a consistent basis. He’s 6-foot-6, 252 pounds with 35 5/8-inch arms. That’s a big deal to NFL teams. Everyone knows he’s going to grow into his frame like Danielle Hunter did coming out of LSU, and that’s my player comp for him. Hunter wasn’t a first-round pick -- he went in the third round -- but Sweat is going to be a first-rounder because teams are going to be quicker to recognize his talent than they were with Hunter.

Sweat was the most dominant guy out here on Day 1. If you had him as a late first-rounder, you need to go back and reassess your grade for him. I projected him for the late teens in Round 1 coming into this week, but that might be too low for him. -- Lance Zierlein

Here’s a local kid that is getting second round pick buzz.

Deebo Samuel , WR, South Carolina

We loved Samuel in 2017 when he got off to a red-hot start but a broken leg ended that season. He flashed some of that talent in 2018, when he played in 12 games but had just 62 receptions for 882 yards. Good numbers, for sure, but just not great. He can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield, he can run the jet sweep, return kicks -- anything a coach could dream up. Samuel can run every route and he does it aggressively, but scouts have expressed concerns about his deep speed.

While we are talking about local kids I really thought Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfro played well in the actual game. Renfro lead the South team with five catches for 63 yards, a couple which were clutch third down catches. Renfro has great hands, runs good routes and could be a very good possession type receiver in the NFL.

Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas

One of the defensive players to pop during the game this past Saturday was Charles Omenihu. He was given a very difficult task in going against possible first-round-caliber offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Omenihu didn’t win every rep, but he made some huge plays throughout the game in both the run and pass game.

He showed power, speed, play recognition, and so much more during his limited reps. When he did make a mistake with his hands-to-the-face penalty, he followed that up with a huge tackle for loss in the run game. Later on, he ended up forcing a fumble that helped set up the drive to get the North the lead.

Omenihu looks like a mid round pick in the 3rd to 5th round range. Another mid round prospect is this offensive tackle from Kansas State.

Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State

One winner not only from the game but through the entire Senior Bowl week was Kansas State offensive tackle Dalton Risner. First, Risner checked off the arm length requirement for offensive tackle this Tuesday with a length of 34-1/4-inches from shoulder to fingertip.

Risner also showed a solid frame at just under 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds. While Risner didn’t have a great first day of practice, days two and three were solid on the field. He also had been winning over media and scouts alike throughout the week. An intelligent, reflective, and engaging player, the past captain of his college team is a true winner on and off the field from his time in Mobile.

So keep an eye on these guys going forward. They all play positions of need for the Panthers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Panthers draft a player or two from this game.