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The overall success of Carolina’s 2019 draft class may hinge on Greg Little

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Panthers general manager Marty Hurney made a bold move to trade up for a potential star left tackle. Hopefully the move pays off for Carolina.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The ultimate success or failure of the Carolina Panthers 2019 draft will likely hinge on Greg Little. No pressure, young fella.

The Panthers began their 2019 draft by taking Brian Burns at No. 16 overall and most draft pundits have him pegged as an impact player. Carolina then traded up in the second round to select Greg Little from Ole Miss at No. 37 but they paid a hefty price by giving up No. 47 (2nd round) and No. 77 (3rd round).

Ranging from bargain to disaster

If Little develops into an above-average left tackle and solidifies that position for the Panthers for the next 10 years, then giving up the No. 77 pick to land him is a bargain.

But if Little’s play fluctuates somewhere between “okay” and “I’m having Remmers flashbacks” then the Panthers 2019 draft could turn out to be a long-term disaster.

Carolina’s draft likely hinges on Greg Little because after landing Burns at No. 16, Carolina was sitting on No. 47 (2nd round), No. 77 (3rd round), and No. 100 (3rd round). Realistic expectations for No. 47 should be drafting a starter while No. 77 and No. 100 should yield solid contributors to borderline starters. However, because of Marty Hurney’s draft day strategy, it’s likely the Panthers will get no on-field value from their two original third round picks.

Poof! The disappearing third rounders

Pick No. 77 disappeared by trading up for Little, then No. 100 was invested in backup quarterback Will Grier who will never take a meaningful snap as long as a healthy Cam Newton is in town. So, if Greg Little is a disappointment and Cam is healthy, the Panthers will get almost no on-field value out of their original draft board of No. 47, No. 77, and No. 100. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

In football terms, getting almost nothing from Nos. 47, 77, and 100 is like collecting a giant pile of salary cap dollars, dousing it with gasoline, and lighting it on fire. It’s a disaster.

But if Greg Little develops into the Panthers long-term solution at left tackle, then hallelujah! Praise Hurney! Nobody will care about about giving up No. 77 in that scenario.

There are no guarantees

Since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season the Panthers have cycled through Byron Bell, Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Matt Kalil, Chris Clark, Sir Purr, Mr. Rogers, and a stack of Waffle House pancakes at left tackle. If Cam Newton had been killed during a game the Panthers front office would’ve been collectively convicted of negligent homicide. Left tackle is one of the most important positions in football but has somehow been a “position of need” in Carolina for the last half decade.

While I’m usually waving the banner to smartly trade down, if I had a 100 percent guarantee that Greg Little will become an above-average left tackle for the next 10 years, maybe throw in a Pro Bowl season or two, then I would’ve thrown in No. 77 and the rest of Carolina’s remaining picks land him. Seriously. The position is that important and things have been that bad.

But that’s the problem with the NFL Draft - there are no guarantees.

Little could become the next second round Pro Bowl stud like Kawann Short (No. 44, 2013) or the next second round contributor like Devin Funchess (No. 41, 2015).

On the flip side, Little could also be yet another early round bust like Everett Brown (No. 43, 2009), Jimmy Clausen (No. 48, 2010), or Amini Silatolu (No. 40, 2012). Only time will tell how Marty Hurney’s 2019 draft strategy pans out, and most of it will depend on Greg Little.


Did the Panthers make the right move by giving up No. 77 to move up and select Greg Little?

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