Remember way back on March 5th, when the Panthers had holes up and down the roster? The March free agency winds came blowing through Charlotte, GM Dave Gettleman filled many of those holes. That’s not to say the Panthers aren’t done working in free agency, you should expect them to sign more camp bodies between now and Camp Wofford in late July. Maybe even a salty veteran to push some of the young guys. At this point, it’s safe to say the Panthers have turned their attention to the upcoming NFL draft. After a trade with the Pats, the Panthers upgraded their 3rd round pick and move to the end of the 2nd round. With only about three weeks between now and the first round of the draft, the Panthers are in a great position to add the best player and not draft for need. Here is where we see them going.
1st Round – #8 – Christian McCaffery – RB – Stanford (Original Pick – Derek Barnett – DE Tennessee)
Call it a reach if you want. Bottom line, McCaffery is the weapon that Carolina needs on its offense. Even if Fournette is still on the board, I still take McCaffery here. McCaffery can line up at RB, WR, PR and KR. The Panthers need help at all four of those positions and this could even add to the shelf life of RB Jonathan Stewart. I know that people are in love with the idea of OJ Howard, and I wouldn’t be mad if he is the player drafted here. The Panthers are going to be a great position to draft a difference maker and day one starter, they need to swing for the fences.
2nd Round – #40 – Cam Robinson – OT – Alabama (Original Pick – David Njoku – TE Miami)
This is a dream scenario for the Panthers. Plenty of fans want the Panthers to take Robinson at No. 8 overall. This gives the Panthers the backup plan they need to have in place in the event Michael Oher isn’t ready to go after being in concussion protocol for the last six months. He is even insurance in case Matt Kalil can’t get back to his former playing form.
2nd Round – #64 – Justin Evans – SS – Texas A&M (Pick acquired from Patriots for Kony Ealy and 3rd round pick)
He won’t be able to supplant Mike Adams, to be the week one starter, but he is an upgrade over Tre Boston. Adams is going on 56 years old and father time is going to catch up with him at some point. If Evans is still on the board at this point, he’s hard to pass on. His strengths match up perfectly with Kurt Coleman and you’ve set yourself at safety for the next four seasons.
3rd Round – #98 – Jake Butt – TE – Michigan (Original Pick – Juile’n Davenport – OT Bucknell)
Four months ago, Butt was projected as a 1st round pick. But after tearing his ACL in Michigan’s bowl game, he stock has fallen dramatically. Butt shouldn’t be expected to be ready for Camp Wofford, but his surgically repaired knee could be ready to roll in week one. The value here is too good to pass up. He plays the game very like Greg Olsen and could be his understudy for the next few season and then take over when Olsen decides to hang it up.
4th Round – #115 – Pat Elflien – C – Ohio State (Original Pick – Pat Elflien – C – Ohio State)
We had him here the first time and we are sticking with it. He can play all three interior positions and can be the next in line when possible Hall of Famer, Ryan Kalil, hangs it up.
5th Round – #152 – Ryan Switzer – WR – North Carolina (Original Pick – Ryan Switzer WR – North Carolina)
Same thing here, Switzer is a steal here and can push to be the starting slot WR. It’s easy to say that he’s just like Wes Welker, you know, because he’s small and white. Switzer is more than that, he doesn’t just go across the middle and get hammered, like Welker. He’s much faster and can burn on the outside as well. Did I mention his return skills? Could you imagine lining an offense up with Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin, Christian McCaffery and Ryan Switzer? Choose your poison.
6th Round – #192 – Zane Gonzalez – K – Arizona State (Original Pick – Storm Norton LT – Toledo)
Graham Gano, let’s just not call him Instagraham anymore. He’s overpaid and couldn’t hit the kicks when it mattered this season. Gonzalez was the best kicker in college football last season. It’s an easy pick.
7th Round – #233 – Elijah Hood – RB – North Carolina (Original Pick – Joe Mixon RB – Oklahoma_
Mixon is long gone by this point. His workouts were too good for most teams to take him off their boards. Hood reminds me a lot of Jonathan Stewart and could be filling the roster spot of Mike Tolbert. The Panthers could carry four RB’s all season long. If he can’t make the team, you should be able to stash him on the practice squad. Plus, it’s another Tar Heel and that’s always a good thing.