Last season, the Panthers returned to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09 (12-4). In a sort of a make-or-break third season as coach, Ron Rivera guided his team to a 12-4 record with the fourth-best defense and eighth-best offense in the NFL. Carolina started the season 1-3, but won 11 of their next 12 games after the poor start.
Quarterback Cam Newton had his best season as a pro. Even though he passed for a career-low 3,279 yards, he completed a career-best 61.7% of his passes for 24 touchdowns. On the defensive side, Luke Kuechly took home the Defensive Player of the Year award after just his second season. His biggest highlight game came week 16 against the New Orleans Saints when he recorded a ridiculous Madden-like 24 tackles and picked off Drew Brees.
Now, all of the above is very cute to include until I finally get down to the bad part of the offseason. Wideouts Steve Smith, Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell are gone, while Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are in (along with a handful of additional young receivers.) Safety Mike Mitchell left and signed a five-year $25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and offensive tackle Jordan Gross retired, leaving his former team with a need on the blind side.
With the 28th pick, the Carolina Panthers select:
Name: Cyrus Kouandjio
Position: Offensive tackle
This draft in particular for the Panthers is important for GM Dave Gettleman in already just his second offseason. Even with the great season his team had, Carolina is stuck with some holes to fill along with cap issues.
It's very tempting for the Panthers to draft a receiver here. Well, actually, it's the only other option at this spot considering all current receivers on the team have zero catches in a Panthers uniform. But as you've probably already heard, this class is loaded with receivers. An ideal pick for the Panthers here is a guy like Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin or even Marqise Lee, but they're off the board. Carolina can start stocking up there in the second round or later, they can certainly get good value there, too.
Kouandjio had a poor performance at the NFL combine due to a knee injury, which decreased his draft stock. He only had just 21 reps in the bench press, which is pretty low for a tackle known for size and strength. Then, NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted that many teams failed Kouandjio on their physicals.
Ignoring potential injury risk, he can still be a good NFL starter with the right coaching to help his game and footwork. And even with his injuries, he won't turn 21 until after the draft, so he certainly still has time to grow.
As another random note, last year the Panthers got good value at 15 and drafted Star Lotulelei after he fell due to medical considers, too. Maybe that could happen again here.
Round One Summary
|St. Louis Rams (via WAS)
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|New York Giants
|St. Louis Rams
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
|New York Jets
|Odell Beckham, Jr.
|Green Bay Packers
|Kansas City Chiefs
|San Diego Chargers
|Cleveland Browns (via IND)
|New Orleans Saints
We'll have the 29th pick in the first round up a little bit later this afternoon, as Tex takes the New England Patriots' pick.