Overall, I think the Panthers had a good draft. They came into the weekend with the mindset of making both the offensive line and pass rush better, and taking two players at each group helped them reach that goal. They also wanted a backup quarterback to develop, and while I feel like they probably should have taken a safety with one of their first four picks, it’s hard to argue against their decision to build some quality depth behind Cam Newton. The only true negative of this draft is their decision to reach for a running back in the fifth round, but if that’s the only thing I can find truly ‘wrong’ with their draft class then I’d say they did a pretty dang good job.
Overall grade: B
The Panthers knew what they needed and got it. That started in the first round with edge rusher Brian Burns at No. 16. He’s pure speed off the edge, something the team had to get in this draft.
Carolina jumped up to No. 37 in the second round to take Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little. That trade up was pretty costly, though. Little is a player with immense talent, but his play is inconsistent. If the Panthers can figure him out, he could be a starting left tackle.
Taking West Virginia quarterback Will Grier at No. 100 is nice insurance for Cam Newton.
Burns made himself a lot of money by adding weight for the combine. With his explosiveness and bend, adding strength to his frame will help him meet his potential. They met their need for an offensive tackle in the early second round, giving up a third-round selection to move up 10 spots and select Little. He should help protect Cam Newton and Grier, a third-round selection who will likely beat out the team’s current backup QBs for a job.
Miller is a stiff defender with an injury history, but the Panthers hope he can avoid the training room to reach his potential. Scarlett is a power back who will pair well with Christian McCaffrey. Daley’s a swing tackle prospect that the team coveted. Godwin excelled at the East-West Shrine Game, which may be more indicative of his talent than his average workout numbers.
Overall grade: A-
Through the first four rounds, it looked like the Panthers were going to get an absolute monster of a draft class.
While it’s still a strong haul overall, Hurney loses points for the extra trade value surrendered to the Seahawks in round two as well as the perplexing Scarlett and Godwin picks. What matters is he hit the team’s two major positions of need (EDGE, left tackle) hard by doubling down at each.
Upgrading the spot behind Cam Newton was also an important goal this offseason and they achieved that by getting Grier in the third. Passing on defensive backs completely is probably the most questionable move. The team is putting a ton of faith in Rashaan Gaulden and Ross Cockrell by not adding another DB in the draft.
13. Carolina Panthers
PICKS: DE Brian Burns, OT Greg Little, QB Will Grier, DE/OLB Christian Miller, RB Jordan Scarlett, OT Dennis Daley, WR Terry Godwin
The Will Grier pick was a head-scratcher, but I suppose Carolina got good value. I gave him a second-round grade before the draft. Before that pick, the Panthers nailed their first two. Brian Burns has all of the tools to develop into a top pass rusher, and the same could be said for the athletic Greg Little, who should compete for a starting job in camp.
Best pick: Second-round tackle Greg Little had first-round ability. I think with a little seasoning he could develop into a Pro Bowl player.
Worst pick: I didn’t love the decision to take quarterback Will Grier in the third round. They do need a developmental passer, but is he that much better than backup Kyle Allen?
The skinny: They did a nice job with their first two picks, adding Little and first-round edge Brian Burns. The pass rush badly needed help as they move to using more 3-4 defenses. Fourth-round edge rusher Christian Miller could also help there.
Overall grade: B+
There always has to be at least one hater, though...
. . . GM Marty Hurney stuck to his board and got edge rusher Brian Burns, who I thought could go in the top 10. He needs to add some weight to his 6-foot-5, 249-pound frame to play end in a 4-3 defense, but he already has a stellar first step. He’s explosive off the edge. He is going to be asked to play early and often, along with free-agent signing Bruce Irvin.
My issues with this class come in Rounds 2-7. Offensive tackle Greg Little (No. 37) is an underachiever. He has all the talent in the world, but teams question his work ethic. If — a big if — Carolina can get him going, it could have a steal. I wouldn’t have taken him at the top of the second round, though. Quarterback Will Grier (No. 100) was an interesting pick, and it makes a lot of sense based on Cam Newton’s injury history. Ideally, the Panthers never want to see Grier take a snap; they hope Newton stays healthy. But he’s a solid insurance policy. Dennis Daley (No. 212) is a lumbering tackle with a low ceiling, while Jordan Scarlett (No. 154) is extremely inconsistent.
If Burns is a 10-sack-per-season player, this class could work out. But questions remain, even if I admire the Panthers for addressing needs.
Do these grades line up with what you think, Panthers fans? Let’s talk about it.