If Cut, the Panthers Should Look at Sammy Watkins

Yes I know, before anyone tells me, Sammy Watkins is injury prone and inconsistent.

I know. Everyone does.

In four of his six seasons in the NFL, Watkins has missed games due to injuries, and has been on IR multiple times. He even suffered injury problems at Clemson. 

As for the inconsistencies you see people mention, that can be explained with some context (I think). I’d say the main reason comes back to injuries, obviously your numbers won’t be the same when you miss games and can’t get into a rhythm. 

Also, in the past three seasons Watkins has been on offenses ranked 1st, 1st, and 5th in PPG, respectively. This indicates he’s been on some stacked offenses with a lot of weapons to get the ball too. Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, and Mecole Harmon are some of the names he’s shared the field with in that span. On a team like the Panthers, it’s hard to say the offensive cast will be as deep as the Rams or Chiefs were.

Watkins is set to make about $14 million next season with the Chiefs. A restructure or pay cut seems unlikely on Watkins’ side, and as high of an upside as he has, there’s almost no way the Chiefs don’t cut him at that price. So if I had to guess, I’d say Watkins would be a free agent.

Let’s look at some tape on what he could offer the Panthers…

Firstly, we’ll start off with a fun one. Watkins catches the slant, bursts up the field for 60 yards of YAC and takes it to the house. It’s forgotten when you share a field with Tyreek Hill, but Watkins would be the fastest guy on a lot of NFL teams:

There’s a difference between being quick and being fast. Some guys don’t possess both traits at an elite level, Watkins does though. Completely sells his upfield route, plants, and changes directions 180 degrees to create some separation for the easy completion:

Another display of his quick movements here, gets a good release on the seam route but Mahomes just can’t connect with him. Now I do think this a good time to point out one of Watkins flaws, his catch radius doesn’t seem to be quite as large as some top receivers. I’m not blaming this incompletion on Watkins in any way, it could’ve been a better throw, I’m just simply pointing out that he’s not one of those guys that “catches everything thrown his way”. He ranked 88th in the NFL this past season with a true catch rate of 75.4%.

Obviously it helps to have a guy like Patrick Mahomes that can keep plays alive like that and has a cannon, but being able to help extend a play like this and outrun a guy that just won Defensive Player of the Year certainly isn’t a bad thing:

This clip is from his one season with the Rams in 2017, gets the inside release on the go route, explodes up the field, and hauls in a difficult catch:

Let’s take another look at some of Watkins route running skills. His first step on his break into the deep crosser is incredibly efficient, as a matter of fact it looks like his speed increased on the break like he a hit a turbo ramp in Mario Kart:

And lastly, when you have an offense like the Panthers with many guys who have a lot of versatility in roles they can play, Watkins could fit right in if he’s able to be used like this too as well:

So, what role would Watkins have on the Panthers? This past season 437 of his snaps came from the slot, compared to just 233 on the outside, is that how the Panthers would use him? I’m not so sure.

It’s not a secret that Curtis Samuel is the best route runner on the team currently  (and also saw the lowest percentage of catchable targets of qualified receivers at 63%), so he’d stay on the outside regularly.

For DJ Moore, however, despite the breakout year he had would still be best fit in the slot primarily in my opinion. He so strong, both at the catch point and with the ball in his hands, that he’s best used on slants and other quick routes. This is why I think a player like Watkins would be a great fit on the opposite side with Samuel.

Roughly 70% of Samuel’s stats came from the left side last season so I think it’s fair to say he’s more comfortable there. That shouldn’t be an issue with Watkins though, as his left/right splits were nearly 50/50 so he should be fine on either side.

As for what a potential contract would look like, it’s hard to say. If Watkins won’t take a pay cut on his $14 million deal right now, how much lower would he go?

This is supposed to be a deep WR draft which could mean one of two things:

Either it means that all the WR’s on rookie contracts that could be taken lowers Watkins value on the market and the Panthers could get him a little cheaper, or it could mean that the Panthers are one of those teams that see no reason to sign him because of the WR’s in the draft.

It’s way too early to tell what type of cap space the Panthers will be looking at due to Cam Newton’s future being undecided and cuts yet to be made, but if the price right, the Carolina Panthers should absolutely take a chance on Sammy Watkins.***

*** – If Cam Newton remains in Carolina

How Matt Rhule Ruled His Panthers Press Conference

I’m an infant when it comes to the depths of my Charlotte sports fandom. This is my second year with the Hornets, and the season that just wrapped was my first with the Panthers. I have essentially been welcomed to each organization the same way: with a new coaching staff. The Hornets hired James Borrego and the Panthers now famously gave the keys to Matt Rhule (7 years $60 million).

I’ve seen a lot of press conferences in my history as a sports fan. I’ve even been part of them during my brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, I have never seen someone — rule — an opening press conference the way that Matt Rhule did on Wednesday afternoon. Let’s get into the play by play.

The presser was hosted at the new practice bubble. Simply put, it was a damn party. Media members, staff, and even fans (shoutout to Roaring Riot) were in attendance. There was also a DJ??? Most press conferences are very strong in demeanor, but this one was a feel good vibe. It was like when you and your boys all pull up to the crib at the same time and everyone is dapping each other up.

The Panthers put together a brief video of Coach Rhule’s journey to Carolina that ultimately would set the tone for the presser. Passionate and motivated. When Rhule finally stepped up to the podium, he was greeted with chants of “Keep Pounding,” which would soon become a theme.

This man damn near starts his speech with, “I promise you (the Tepper’s) each day that I will work each day with everything I have and will make you proud of your organization.” Matt Rhule or 2008 Tim Tebow? He then adds a bit later, “There’s no doubt we share a common vision. There’s no doubt we believe in doing things the right way.”

Rhule then transitions into why the Carolina Panthers. In a brilliant two minute monologue he encapsulated his love for the game and how it has allowed him to achieve so much. Ultimately, he ended it his soliloquy with, “I wanted to be part of the greatest game at the highest stage. I just had to figure out where.” Are you ready to run through a wall yet?

So you still need more convincing, huh? Coach then begins to praise former Panthers’ legends, “I’m so excited to be part of this team. I’m walking in and I saw Steve Smith. I’m sitting there saying to myself, ‘My goodness. The people who have come before me. The greatness.’ I met Julius Peppers earlier — like, Julius Peppers!” Matt Rhule is someone who is clearly so gracious about people who paved the way before him and aspires to be the next person who carries the torch.

“I will work tirelessly to bring you guys [points to Roaring Riot] a championship, to bring you [points to Tepper family] a championship. Because that’s what this region [#OneCarolina] deserves, that’s what the players before us deserve, that’s what the guys in the locker room deserve.” Update: I’m like Pam from the Office right now walking on hot coals for this man.

“Everything counts. Everything is important. The way I park my car in the morning, the way I walk to the practice field, the way I watch tape. Everything I do, everything our players do… everything has to be our best each and every day.” *insert a thousand fire emojis here*

He just… gets it. Leadership is never given it is earned. Cheesy, but true. We’re looking at a guy who successfully rebuilt two collegiate programs within two years at each. Someone who embraces challenge, and someone who understands the effort and attention to detail it takes to not only win, but sustain a winning culture.

I could continue with quotes, but instead I’d like to end with my favorite. During his final dismount Rhule said, “‘Keep Pounding’ isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.” Right then I knew we did it. We found our guy.

PS: After the presser it was reported that Rhule is leaving the smock in Waco. This is the only blemish on the day.

Carolina Panthers Dream Offseason

The Carolina Panthers are in a strange position this offseason.

With uncertainty at the quarterback position (at least from management, it seems), one of the worst run defenses in recent memory, and a roster full of aging talent, there was not much hope as the Panthers lost eight games in a row to end the season. 

In being an extremely unpredictable offseason, I am going to create what my dream offseason would look like for the Carolina Panthers.

Why?

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Step One: Picking A Head Coach

There are really only three main coaches that I am considering for this: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Lincoln Riley is not included on the assumption that he will not leave the Oklahoma Sooners.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals

But as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, I am going to pick Eric Bieniemy of the proven Andy Reid coaching tree. In his first year as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2018, his Patrick Mahomes-led offense led the NFL in both yards and points scored. This year, his offense is fifth in passing yards per game and sixth in total offensive yards gained.

The offensive coordinator hired during this dream offseason is Joe Brady, the current mastermind behind Joe Burrow’s magical Heisman season. Brady was an assistant on the New Orleans Saints.

I know that Joe Brady is almost certainly going to be apart of Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s future head coaching staff, but this is a dream off-season, damn it.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jack Del Rio is going to come from the television booth. Del Rio has been a defensive coordinator for four whole seasons and had a top-5 defense essentially every single one of them. 

Del Rio was the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers in 2002 when he led them to become the second-best defense in the NFL. This isn’t a sexy pick by any means, but Del Rio is, by all means, a significantly better DC than head coach (especially for the Raiders).

Let’s get to the internal moves.

Rules:

I am going to be using the Fanspeak “Manage The Cap” Free Agency simulator to determine my free agency signings. I can cut, re-sign, and possibly franchise tag players. There are no limitations as to who I can cut. Anyone is on the table.

CUTS:

Dontari Poe

Poe simply has not lived up to his contract and entering a year where he is due upwards of $10 million, this is the only correct move. After this, though, the interior defensive line spot will have to be addressed with only Kawann Short under contract. 

Poe was injured for a large portion of this past season, but even so, the Panthers tied the record for most touchdown runs given up in a given season. That is not a good statistic. 

Savings: $10 million

Greg Olsen

Sure, this says “CUTS”, but I’m 90% sure Greg Olsen is retiring after this season anyway. The nine-year Panther legend has been incredibly reliable throughout his career but recently has not been able to match his once-elite production. 

Olsen retiring saves the Panthers a decent amount of money, and even if he were to keep playing, I’m not sure Carolina would bring him back for another year.

Savings: $8 million

Jarius Wright

Wright had five drops this past season while yielding less than 300 total receiving yards. Wright caught less than two passes per game and scored zero touchdowns. He is not worth his 2020 cap figure in any way whatsoever. Jarius Wright is, at worst, an easy cut and should not be a Panther next year.

Savings: $3 million

Mike Davis

It’s puzzling why the Panthers even claimed Mike Davis in the first place. He played little to no snaps behind Christian McCaffrey and Reggie Bonnafon and his cap number just is not reasonable given he is a third-string running back.

Mike Davis showed some skills during his short stint in Chicago but he is another easy cut along with Jarius Wright.

Savings: $3 million

Total Amount Saved Against the Cap: Roughly $24 million

WHO TO BRING BACK:

James Bradberry:

Bradberry apparently wants to be paid as if he is a top-5 corner in the NFL and as much as I want to believe that statement, he simply is not. The Panthers would likely have to give him over $14 million per year in order for him to stay. I only had about $60 million to use after cuts for this simulation. Giving ¼ of the available cap room to a corner that is not an elite player just is not understandable.

James Bradberry walks.

Mario Addison:

Initially, I was hesitant to re-sign Mario Addison. But he is Carolina’s most consistent edge rusher and, at worst, will provide mentorship to Brian Burns. Addison turns 33 in September but might retire following this coming year, so if anything, he will be back on a short-term deal.

New Contract: Two years, $15 million (about 7.5 guaranteed)

Gerald McCoy:

As much as I would love to have Gerald McCoy back on the Panthers, there are other options available in free agency that I prefer. McCoy is aging and a spectacular personality off of the field. I just do not believe bringing him back would benefit the long-term goals of this defense.

Gerald McCoy walks.

Vernon Butler:

Butler sealed his fate after he punched the wrong person after getting blocked 15 yards downfield by a Colts offensive lineman. Following an ejection, he gave the middle finger to a Colts crowd while trailing by over 20 points. After a somewhat positive season, I am still happy to let Butler walk and count towards the compensation pick formula.

Daryl Williams:

No.

Chris Hogan:

Hogan really did not have any major impact on the Panthers season this year, mainly because he was on IR for half of it. He is a solid depth receiver and could provide hands for another team. I don’t see the point in re-signing Hogan.

Ross Cockrell:

Cockrell was a great depth corner for the Panthers and even outplayed 2018 second-round draft pick Donte Jackson in the final quarter of the season. Cockrell was well worth his contract and should be back in the black-and-blue next year, for the right price.

New Contract: Two years, $10 million (about 4.5 guaranteed)

Greg Van Roten:

GVR was actually not as horrible as many people anticipated this past season. He was fine but was hurt towards the end of the season. I offered Van Roten a contract on Fanspeak’s simulator but he sadly declined it (was around the two years/$3.5M range). I was not going any higher than that.

Others that walked:

Bruce Irvin

Kyle Love

Javien Elliott

Tre Boston

FREEEEEEE AGENCYYYYYYYYYY

(roughly $60 million available to use on free agents after cuts)

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Signing number one: DJ Reader, interior defensive line, Four years, $50 million (roughly 35 guaranteed)

DJ Reader is a 25-year old 330-pound behemoth of a nose-tackle. The Panthers HAVE to fix their run defense and signing Greensboro-born DJ Reader would be a huge step in accomplishing that. 

Reader was graded an 86.7 this past year by PFF and had nearly 40 solo tackles. He is an absolute monster anchoring a defense and would be spectacular next to Kawann Short. He is the biggest (literally and figuratively) signing in this simulation.

Signing number two: Joe Thuney, offensive guard, Four years, $30 million (roughly 23 guaranteed)

The Panthers need to get better in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Thuney is a solid offensive guard and only allowed one sack this past year according to PFF. 

He would presumably go on the left side of the offensive line opposite of Trai Turner. Thuney is absolutely an upgrade over Daryl Williams, who gave up the most sacks of any guard in the NFL and definitely above the tier of guard that Van Roten finds himself as well.

Signing number three: Jason Peters, offensive tackle, One year, $9M (roughly 7.5 guaranteed)

Jason Peters is going to be 38 years old this coming season. That also means he could be either a stop-gap at left-tackle or someone that could help Greg Little and Dennis Daley learn the position better themselves.

Peters has been a solid contributor for the Eagles for like, ever, and might even retire after this year. But in this simulation, he’s coming to Carolina for a final season.

Signing number four: Karl Joseph, safety, Three years, $15 million (roughly 10 guaranteed)

After letting Tre Boston walk, there simply are not enough draft picks to solve the problem that is the Carolina Panthers secondary. Eric Reid is probably the only solid starter in the back four as it stands, even with Donte Jackson.

Karl Joseph is another promising player that could have his best days ahead of him. Signing him for about $5M a year could look really good in a few years.

OTHER SIGNINGS:

WR Justin Hardy: Two years, $4M (2M guaranteed)

CB Cre’Von Leblanc: Two years, $4M (2M guaranteed)

TE Logan Thomas: One year, $1.5M (1M guaranteed)

EDGE Kamalei Correa: Two years, $8M (4M guaranteed)

DL Tyeler Davison: Three years, $13.5M (8M guaranteed)

WR Laquon Treadwell: Two years, $6M (2M guaranteed)

CB Trumaine Brock: One year, $3.5M (3M guaranteed)

DL Austin Johnson: Two years, $7M (4M guaranteed)

THE DRAFT

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*I used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to simulate what I would do for the Panthers on draft night*

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First Round: Derrick Brown, Defensive Line, Auburn

Okay, look: I know that there is a lot of money poured into the defensive line as it is right now. But, Derrick Brown is an incredible player and could truly help the Panthers front-3 become elite once again. It would be extremely difficult to run the ball against a defensive line that contains Kawann Short, DJ Reader, and Derrick Brown. That is truly needed after the Panthers had one of the worst run-defenses in NFL history.

Other players considered/available: Tristan Wirfs, Isaiah Simmons, CeeDee Lamb, Grant Delpit

Second Round: Paulsen Adebo, Corner, Stanford

The Panthers really need another corner, even with investments in Ross Cockrell, Cre’Von Leblanc, and Trumaine Brock. Adebo is a tall, physical outside corner that gives the Panthers another option in coverage.

Third Round: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU

Justin Jefferson might fall in a loaded wide-receiver class. Standing at 6-foot-3 at almost 200 pounds, he has the height to become an X-receiver. Jefferson has over 1400 yards and 18 touchdowns as one of Joe Burrow’s top targets. He’s a threat outside and could have his stock rise, depending on how he tests at the combine.

Round Four: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama

Najee Harris is a powerful runner. He weighs nearly 230 pounds and could be the perfect compliment for Christian McCaffrey. Harris is just pure power and could be used in short situations. A backfield that has Harris, McCaffrey, and Cam Newton would just be so, so fun.

The rest: Jake Hanson (iOL, Oregon, R5), Terence Steele (OL, Texas Tech, R6), and Eric Stokes (CB, Georgia, R7) all provide depth for their positions and, in all likelihood, will not play much.

FINAL DEPTH CHART

Screenshot 2019-12-30 at 8.56.44 PM

Takeaways:

The quarterback position will be one to watch for the Panthers. I did not address it, because frankly, it does not need to be addressed. Cam Newton is a stellar quarterback and should absolutely be given a chance to thrive when fully healthy.

In this simulation, I invested over $100 million and three draft picks on the offensive and defensive line. The Panthers desperately need to get better up front (both protecting Cam Newton and stopping the run) and this is my way of doing that. The defense HAS to be better if Carolina would like to make a playoff run, and it all starts upfront.

The firepower of an offense led by Cam Newton with surrounding pieces like DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Justin Jefferson, and Christian McCaffrey is exciting — especially if a head coaching candidate such as Eric Bieniemy comes to the Panthers.

This simulation is a bit unrealistic, I know. But that’s the fun in it.

Carolina Panthers Fantasy Outlook: Curtis Samuel

Curtis Samuel / Wide Receiver / Age 22 / Year 3

Curtis Samuel is an electric wide receiver on the outside. With blazing speed and incredible deep-threat ability Samuel has weekly upside. However, through two seasons in the NFL he has yet to play a full sixteen games, and has only started in 12 total. With Devin Funchess in Indianapolis, the main outside position becomes up for grabs. Samuel is primed for it. 

2018 Review:

Curtis Samuel’s 2018 season was quite disappointing. He only saw 7+ targets in four of thirteen games played. The most yards he caught in a contest was 88. The Panthers failed to utilize him to his skillset which crippled his fantasy value. Samuel, a DeSean Jackson-esque receiver had a yards per reception of 12.67. His teammate, DJ Moore, had a YPR over 14. That is inexcusable for someone with Samuel’s abilities. The one bright spot in Samuel’s 2018 season was that he scored a total of seven times, five through the air and two on the ground. 

Samuel’s 2018 stat line: 65/39 (60%), 494 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, 84 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns

2019 Outlook:

As mentioned previously, the main outside slot is up for grabs and is for Curtis’ taking. I expect DJ Moore to be utilized everywhere as he was last season, and Samuel to see all of his work on the outside. Through just a few days at training camp, Samuel has been the star of camp. Each day he has hauled in multiple deep throws and the team seems determined to use him the way he should have been used all along. That said, deep threats are often associated with boom-bust weekly potential in fantasy, and he is no different. Many experts and myself expect that this season could be a breakout year for Samuel. With Funchess gone, Samuel should absolutely see an uptick in targets and the combination of himself and Moore could be a nightmare for secondaries. 

Per Fantasy Football Calculator (in half PPR), Curtis Samuel is being drafted in the back of the eleventh round and is wide receiver 45 off the board. This feels like an absolute steal for a guy who could break into the top 36 at the position, and is closer to a WR2 (top 24) than a WR3 (top 36). Wide receivers going before Samuel are Dede Westbrook, Courtland Sutton, and Keke Coutee. Players going after him are DK Metcalf, Golden Tate, and DeSean Jackson. The only player mentioned that I am taking ahead of him is Dede Westbrook. In the 11thround, you’re throwing your darts on guys and this seems like an easy one. 

The interesting debate actually comes from the question, “DJ Moore in the 6th or Curtis Samuel in the 11th?” In terms of value, it’s Samuel. You’re getting a player who could turn into the team’s number one option extremely late. However, I believe this question really comes down to team construction. I view Moore as a possession receiver (great for PPR) who will see a ton of work in between the twenties and Samuel as the scoring threat. If you want a high floor, go Moore. If you want high weekly upside with bust potential go Samuel. 

Projected 2019 stat line: 90 targets, 57 catches (63%), 850 yards, 8 touchdowns 

Grading the Panthers Draft

The NFL Draft has concluded, and the Panthers had some mixed results. After securing a top edge-rusher, the Panthers had a strange second day of the draft but finished out strong with late day three selections.

First Round (16th overall pick) – Brian Burns, Edge Rusher, Florida State

I did not believe that Brian Burns was going to be available at 16. He was my third overall prospect in this class. Getting a premier player at the edge rusher position provides incredible value. He’s a speed-based pass rusher and is creative in getting to the quarterback. He can play either defensive end or outside linebacker in the new hybrid scheme Carolina will be using. With only one starting caliber edge player (Mario Addison), adding Burns is huge.

Grade: A+

Second Round (37th overall pick) – Greg Little, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi

While I don’t mind the pick, the trade up from 47 was atrocious. Giving up a third-round pick to move up ten spots in the second round is poor asset management by Marty Hurney and co. That said, Little is a decent addition to the offensive line that could end up starting at left tackle this year. After signing Matt Paradis and retaining Daryl Williams (at least this year), the Panthers offensive line doesn’t look horrible for once.

Pick Grade: B
Trade Grade: D-

Third Round (100th overall pick) – Will Grier, Quarterback, West Virginia

The Panthers needed to come out of Day Two of the draft with at least three starting caliber players. Will Grier simply isn’t. The Panthers have far too many needs to spend a high-quality pick on a luxury. It isn’t good value in the third round, either. While Grier has a smooth throwing motion and can create plays outside of the pocket, he doesn’t quite put enough ‘zip’ on his throws and has questionable decision-making. I had Grier graded as a fifth-round quarterback prospect.

Grade: F

Fourth Round (115th overall pick) – Christian Miller, Edge Rusher, Alabama

A safety would have been nice with this pick, but after New Orleans traded up in the fourth round for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, the options were limited. Christian Miller was a first-round talent on my personal big board. Getting him in the fourth round was incredible value. I believe he will be a starter by the end of the season. Though he has some injury concerns, Alabama has proven to churn out elite defensive prospects time and time again, I don’t think Miller is an exception.

Grade: A+

Fifth Round (154th overall pick) – Jordan Scarlett, Half Back, Florida

While many fans don’t like the value, per se, Scarlett is the ideal back-up to Christian McCaffrey. He’s fast and strong, put simply. I personally had Scarlett graded as a sixth-round HB, but Carolina needed a second RB, and I can respect taking Scarlett here.

Grade: B-

Sixth Round (212th overall pick) – Dennis Daley, Offensive Tackle, South Carolina

The Panthers needed tackle depth with the assumption either Daryl Williams or Taylor Moton kicks inside to left guard. Dennis Daley is exactly that. He could have gone as early as the fourth round, but Daley is a solid pick that could likely be a swing tackle in his first year for Carolina. After trading back from the 187th overall pick, this was a great value.

Trade Grade: B+
Pick Grade: B

Seventh Round (237th overall pick) – Terry Godwin, Wide Receiver, Georgia

Terry Godwin is a fun player. In the seventh round, you want players that can contribute in multiple ways, and I think Godwin can do that for you. As an undersized receiver, his ball skills are nothing short of impressive and he can effectively create separation.

Grade: B+

OVERALL GRADE

The Panthers secured two of my top edge players and solidified the tackle spot on the offensive line. While I despise the Grier pick and believe Carolina will regret not picking a safety on day two, the Panthers got better up front on both sides of the ball. At the very least this was an average draft class and fans should be able to live with that.

Grade: B-

Panthers Trade Up for Greg Little in Second Round

The Carolina Panthers have traded up in the second round to select Mississippi Offensive Lineman Greg Little.

After selecting edge defender Brian Burns in the first round, the Panthers turned to the offensive line in an attempt to protect franchise quarterback Cam Newton.

Carolina traded the 47th pick in combination with the 77th overall pick to the Seattle Seahawks for the 5th selection in the second round (36th overall).

Greg Little started the 2018 season as a consensus top-10 pick and has the athleticism to start at day one for the Carolina Panthers. This move likely pushes either Taylor Moton or Daryl Williams to the left guard position.

NFL Mock Draft: Full First Round

This Mock Draft is based on what I believe will happen. Most picks are based on what most analysts (Dane Brugler, Daniel Jeremiah, Mel Kiper, the list goes on) are saying.

1. Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Kyler Murray will, in all likelihood, be an Arizona Cardinal. He’s a dual-threat quarterback with the arm talent to have tremendous success at the NFL level. The only question this pick creates is what the Cardinals should do with last years first round pick, Josh Rosen.

2. 49ers – Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State

Should he be there, the 49ers should not hesitate in taking Nick Bosa. I know there are slight injury concerns, but Bosa is far and away the best edge prospect in this class. He should have an immediate impact for whatever team he is drafted by, should it not be San Francisco.

TRADE:
Jets get: 10th overall pick, 41st overall pick
Broncos get: 3rd overall pick

3. Broncos* – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

John Elway knows what kind of quarterback he wants. Lock fits his mold very well. So much, in fact, that the Broncos move up eight spots to get their guy. Lock has a great arm and impressed at the Senior Bowl.

4. Raiders – Quinnen Williams, iDL, Alabama

Quinnen Williams is the best player in this draft class. The Raiders should not hesitate in selecting him with the fourth overall pick. He’s the type of player you can mold a defense around.

5. Buccaneers – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

Rashan Gary is going to be over-drafted, however, he does have the potential to be a decent 3-tech lineman. This pick likely also means that Gerald McCoy is on his way out of Tampa Bay.

6. Giants – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

The Giants may end up waiting until the 17th pick to take Jones, but typically teams don’t sit and wait when it comes to selecting quarterbacks. Daniel Jones shouldn’t go this high. But, it’s the Giants.

7. Jaguars – TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa

There’s a lot of buzz that this pick could be Jawaan Taylor, however, the Jaguars need to surround their franchise quarterback with viable weapons. TJ Hockenson is a Gronk-esque tight end that can get it done in both the run and pass games.

8. Lions – Ed Oliver, iDL, Houston

Ed Oliver should be a top-five pick, but won’t be. His athleticism and skills are unparalleled for the defensive tackle position. If the Lions make this pick, they would have Trey Flowers, Ed Oliver, and Damon Harrison on the defensive line, which is really good.

9. Bills – Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky

Josh Allen could potentially fall on draft night-in part due to the number of quarterbacks taken prior to this pick. Should he fall, the Bills would simply take BPA. Though it isn’t quite a need, Allen carries great value here.

10. Jets* – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

The Jets move down and still snag the best available offensive lineman in this draft class. Taylor would help Sam Darnold breathe and give a poor position group a much-needed boost for the Jets.

11. Bengals – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

The Bengals are able to capitalize on Haskins’s fall. Zac Taylor is able to now mold his offense around the future of Haskins, and though they don’t draft a player like Devin White, they get the new face of the franchise.

TRADE:
Steelers get: 12th overall pick
Packers get: 20th overall pick, 52nd overall pick, 2020 fourth round pick

12. Steelers* – Devin White, ILB, LSU

The Steelers move up and get the best overall player left on the board in Devin White. While he isn’t expected to be here, surprises happen all of the time on draft night, and the Steelers capitalize and get another building block on their defense.

13. Dolphins – Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State

The Dolphins are a true wild-card this year. They could take a quarterback, offensive lineman, wide receiver, or edge rusher like I have them taking in Sweat here. All in all, it’s very difficult to find an edge defender with both traits and production, and Sweat gives you both.

14. Falcons – Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma

Cody Ford is perhaps the best interior lineman in this class (if moved inside). The Falcons need all sorts of help up front and Ford is a versatile plug-and-play tackle.

15. Redskins – Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

I firmly believe that Brown will be the first wide receiver taken this year. He’s explosive and fits the “modern” NFL very well. Though he has injury concerns, NFL teams have ‘sky high’ grades on him according to Dane Brugler.

16. Panthers – Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State

The Panthers need an edge rusher desperately, and NFL teams seem to be low on Brian Burns. Despite this, he’s an extremely talented pass rusher and should start immediately for a struggling Panthers defensive line.

17. Giants – Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Clemson

With the Giants taking ‘their guy’ with the sixth overall pick, they go Ferrell here, who’s a prototypical 4-3 defensive end that should be good in both the passing and running game.

18. Vikings – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama

The Vikings should select the best overall offensive lineman. Here, that’s Jonah Williams.

19. Titans – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Noah Fant is a solid all-around tight end prospect that would effectively take over for a 34-year old Delanie Walker. Tight ends have growing value in the NFL and Fant should be a tremendous threat over the middle.

20. Packers* – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

After moving down, the Packers are able to draft my first rated linebacker-Devin Bush. There are concerns about his size and ability to play linebacker, but Bush can flat-out ball.

21. Seahawks – Johnathan Abram, SS, Mississippi State

The Seahawks will probably move down here, but if Abram is on the board, I’m not sure that Seattle passes on him. He’s a hard-hitting safety with a high motor and great character.

22. Ravens – Garrett Bradbury, iOL, NC State

When protecting mobile quarterbacks, the center position is as crucial as it gets. Bradbury has the potential to be one of the best in the game.

23. Texans – Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

The Texans have to take the best offensive lineman available. DeShaun Watson could be even better with more than 0.5 seconds to throw. Dillard has flashy footwork and could possibly go in the top-10 if a team is sold on him.

24. Raiders – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

I don’t see the need for corners in this draft class, meaning Williams, Murphy, Baker, Ya-Sin, and Layne could slide. However, a defensive rebuild starting with Quinnen Williams and Greedy Williams would be a spectacular start for Oakland and Mike Mayock.

25. Eagles – Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

Wilkins can play the 1T, 3T, or even defensive end. While it isn’t quite a need for the Eagles, Wilkins is a high character-high motor player that almost any team wants in the locker room.

26. Colts – Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

I just love the thought of Josh Jacobs on the Colts. I could see Jeffrey Simmons here, or perhaps even a wide receiver, but Jacobs has the potential to be an elite back. Alongside a quarterback like Andrew Luck, that’s deadly.

27. Raiders – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

To complete their trio of first-round picks, the Raiders select the best receiver available in DK Metcalf. While it isn’t the biggest need (with Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Ryan Grant), Metcalf would be an incredible value at 27.

28. Chargers – Dexter Lawrence, iDL, Clemson

The Chargers should be going all-in this year. Dexter Lawrence is the best natural 1-tech defensive tackle in this draft and to get him with the 28th pick would be unbelievable.

29. Chiefs – Eric McCoy, iOL, Texas A&M

Many will disagree with this pick, but the Chiefs *need* an interior offensive lineman. Mahomes is a great quarterback. But he can’t do it with more pressure. McCoy should be a plug-and-play lineman at center.

30. Packers – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss

The Packers need a second receiver and Brown would compliment Devante Adams very well. As an outside receiver, his value should grow a lot more to any team utilizing Brown.

31. Rams – Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

I maintain the belief that Rock Ya-Sin goes somewhere in the first round. He’s a lengthy corner with lots of potential and could start in his first year.

32. Patriots – Jeffrey Simmons, DL, Mississippi State

It’s the Patriots selecting another talented young guy. Not sure what else you expect.

Panthers Sign Former Broncos Center, Matt Paradis

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Former Denver Broncos center, Matt Paradis, intends to sign a 3 year $27 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. With former center Ryan Kalil stepping away from the game the Panthers were desperate to fill his position with a proven veteran and did just that by bringing in Paradis.

Paradis is coming off a bitter sweet 2018 season where he played in just nine games due to injury but was still rated as the NFL’s 2nd best center while healthy according to Pro Football Focus. Paradis has also been consistent being ranked in the top 10 centers on PFF for the past three seasons.

Paradis most notably anchored the Broncos offensive line that ultimately beat Carolina in Super Bowl 50. Paradis brings much needed leadership and quality to a Panthers offensive line that has been all but complete for several seasons now.

Splashing in on Paradis in free agency allows the Panthers front office to focus on bigger and more important needs (this team is full of them) in the upcoming draft.

Panthers Free Agency Wish List

With a week to go until the start of the NFL new year, I figured i’d take a look at the free agency market and create my own wish list of players I personally would like to see the Panthers make a move on this offseason. Now, as Carolina sports typically go, we aren’t exactly swimming in salary cap money, so I wouldn’t expect us to splash in on any pretty names this year. Maybe just one guy if we’re lucky. With that said, here’s a five guys I think can be reasonable pick ups headed into the 2019 season.

Matt Paradis, Age: 29, Position: Center, Former Team: Denver Broncos

Paradis is a interesting prospect that I think Carolina should be able to sign on a bargain deal. A former Super Bowl champion –Yes, Cotchery caught it–who’s coming off foot surgery after fracturing his fibula back in week 9, and reports are saying that he’s ahead on rehab at the moment. This may not be who you want to bank on anchoring your offensive line this season, but with former Panthers center Ryan Kalil now retired, Carolina is going to need to find his replacement sooner rather than later. With his recent injury I would like to assume that Paradis won’t get many long term offers, and instead be offered prove it deals to see if he’s 100% healthy and still in good form. With the vacant opening in Carolina, the Panthers make perfect sense for Paradis. At 29 years old this gives the Panthers a proven veteran option at center, and can give them more time to find the long term replacement at center.

Ramon Foster, Age: 33, Position: Guard, Former Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Another veteran lineman to bolster the core. The theme for free agency this season should be to protect Cam Newton at all cost. To do this we’ll need not only vets but young talent as well to ensure our offensive line is as stable and deep as can be. Foster has been in Pittsburgh his whole career so it may be tough to lure him away from his home. However, with all the drama oozing out of Pittsburgh lately it may not be that hard to lure a veteran player who’s seeking to end his career on a better note. Foster has spent his career protecting Ben Roethlisberger, meaning he’s used to having a quarterback who can also keep a play alive with his feet. Something Roethlisberger and even more so Newton, excel at. At the very least Foster could provide great depth should the Panthers choose to find their future guard through the draft.

Ezekiel Ansah, Age: 30, Position: EDGE, Former Team: Detroit Lions

The Panthers need a pass rush in the worst of ways.

There isn’t a single Panthers player on that whole list. One of the most infuriating things of last season was how much time opposing quarterbacks had just sitting in the pocket and picking apart our defense. Ansah could be the band-aid here. Out of this years top edge rushers in free agency, the player with the highest percentage of pass rush snaps with a sack or QB hit since 2017 is none other than Ansah. In 2017 he registered 12 sacks and 17 QB hits. His problem however has been availability as last season he only played in seven games and hasn’t registered a full season since his 2015 pro bowl year. Ansah makes sense from a financial aspect as the Panthers will definitely be revamping their defensive line this offseason, using both free agency and the draft.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Age: 26, Position: Safety, Former Team: Washington Redskins

Clinton-Dix could very well be the perfect option next to newly re-signed vet, Eric Reid. It doesn’t look like there are that many starting caliber safeties in this years draft so the Panthers may very well have to double dip their cash at the safety position this year. Now that it’s official that Mike Adams won’t be returning to Carolina next season, finding Reid’s running mate is officially a top priority for this front office. Clinton-Dix makes for an interesting case for the spot.

Here’s a guy who was traded mid-season last year from Green Bay to Washington for just a 4th round pick. Impressively enough, Clinton Dix has never missed a game since entering the NFL, starting in every game in the past four seasons. He’s been highly productive as well, recording around 80 tackles and multiple interceptions in each season. It’ll be interesting to see what his market value is in a loaded free agent safety class, but if the Panthers want to splash in on a position for quality, safety would be the way to go this year.

Tyrell Williams, Age: 27, Position: WR, Former Team: Los Angeles Chargers

Williams is coming off his most disappointing season as a pro since going off for 1059 yards back in 2016. Good thing is, we don’t need that kind of production from Williams (feel free to reach it). The Panthers find themselves in a spot they haven’t been at in a long time, if ever. Having a surplus of weapons around Cam Newton. With wide receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel taking over and Jarius Wright proving to be a reliable target, and you can’t not mention Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield, Carolina is really only missing one piece for their receiving core. A bigger possession guy who actually knows how to use his body to his advantage, unlike some past players who have came through Carolina.

Williams can be that guy, at 6’4 205 pounds, Williams has the size and skills to be an effective target in the league. He’s been shaky with the drops but it’s nothing compared to what Carolina fans are used to seeing. Last season, he registered his best catch percentage of his career, reeling in 63.1% of the balls thrown his way. To compare, Devin Funchess brought in just 55.7% of his targets last year. That stat along would be a significant improvement for the team.

Prospect Profile: Nasir Adderley, Safety

As far as the safety position goes; there have been all types to come out of the collegiate ranks in recent years, each with their own niche in the way they play, but none are generational talents. Most teams have elected to switch to a “System Fit” mentality at skill positions which adversely will make a lot of those same teams miss out on some ELITE athletes.

Our very own Carolina Panthers are guilty of this narrow minded approach, especially at the safety position.

However, the signing of Eric Reid during the 2018 season, signaled to Panther Nation that the day’s of obsolete safety play are coming to an end in Carolina. Mike Adams will not be resigned after providing the team with invaluable knowledge and veteran leadership. Rashann Gaulden could wind up being a solid player, but his development was always projected to take a while, and it will. Colin Jones? Yeah… just.. no.

We need a day one starter and contributor to pair alongside Reid. Resigning Reid to a multi-year deal will be a top priority for the front office in the coming weeks once the new league year begins. It is very likely the team chooses to fill the other vacant safety spot through the draft, and this is a really good draft to have a need at the position.

Enter Nasir Adderley, safety from the University of Delaware. This kid is lightning in a bottle! He was making game changing plays at UD and even cracked the sports center Top 10 multiple times for some flat out unreal plays with the ball in his hands both as a defender and returner.

Adderly checks in at #1 for his amazing return here.

Adderley is rising up draft boards fast so the Panthers would likely need to spend a pick in the first two rounds to secure his services.

Nasir Adderley

Height: 6-0

Weight: 200

Age: 22

School: University of Delaware

Projected 40: 4.49-4.5

Draft Projection: 2nd round (Rising)

Highlights:

Career Stats

Games Played/Started: 41
Tackles: 226, Solo: 148
Pass Deflections: 31
Interceptions: 10

Player Breakdown

Range – One of the most important traits for a Safety is the ability to disrupt plays from sideline to sideline while keeping everything in front of them. Adderley is long and excels at always staying over the top of the play. He uses his short area quickness to close out on contested throwing windows, and receivers/runners in dominant fashion, he is indeed, RANGY.

Ball Skills – When you’re a DB that’s elite in coverage, QB’s will tend to look to another part of the field to throw the ball. Adderley experienced a lack of targets in 2018 but was still able to snag 3 INT’s, and deflected 9 passes in 8 games played. He is an explosive athlete who loves to high point the football and make a play for his team. Adderley has shown the ability to make plays on the ball his entire college career, and looks to continue at the next level.

Coverage – Adderley had a cornerback pedigree before he played safety collegiality. This foundation has made him a absolute monster in coverage and has allowed him the ability to play single high or at the line of scrimmage with ease. He is patient when the ball is snapped while analyzing from a deep zone position, and mirrors receivers in man with ease due to his elite footwork. He is physical with his hands but is not handsy once the route develops, he flat out just takes receivers out of the play pretty often and that’s exactly what you want in your safety — an ERASER!

Athleticism – It will be fun to watch this dude perform at the combine. He is a phenomenal athlete who will test extremely well. The evidence may be the most present in his short area speed times, i.e. 3 cone drill, 10 yard split, and vertical jump. Adderley plays with smooth hips and quick feet. He can stop on a dime and change directions with ease — very Troy Polamulu esque with the way he flashes into the screen with pure athleticism and force.

Physicality/Tackling – Adderley is a Philly native, and that inherent toughness is quite apparent in the way he lights up offensive players with ease and consistency. He seems to have the ability to slow the play down during the middle of it and make the safest/smartest tackle, the thing is he’s so fast to the ball that most of the time that results in huge hits, yet he is still very sound fundamentally.

Run Support – Don’t even try setting the edge against this guy, he will obliterate offensive tackles at the point and turn ball carriers back into his help if he can’t put them down himself first. Adderley is everything a Defensive Coordinator could possibly wish for as far as a total willingness to take away the run game. It will be a different story for him in the NFL when taking on pulling guards and tackles protecting the edge, but the fact that he doe’s not shy away or mind banging with the hog mollies only adds to his rising draft stock.

Route Recognition – Adderley proved through his 4 year career at Delaware that he possess wizard-like play analysis skills. This probably was developed through Film study and not Dark Magic, but you can absolutely say that’s true because of the 10 interceptions and almost 40 pass deflections in his career. He quickly dissects offensive concepts and reads tendencies, because of this he always has a chance to make a play on the ball. Over the middle he constantly annoyed receivers at the catch point and broke up many passes this way.

Versatility – Nasir spent time at three different positions in the Secondary throughout his career. This type of versatility is something the Panthers should absolutely require and put emphasis on as they look to make the defense younger, meaner, and faster. Adderley played plenty of single high coverage in college as well as some time at outside corner and slot corner. Him knowing the responsibilities of two other positions will only help his learning curve, and with the communication and alignment on the back end. 

Conclusion – I’d hate to be watching another team play this upcoming season and hear Adderley’s name get’s called for his first significant play as a pro. It’s high time that the Panthers spent a top draft pick on a safety, as it is a premium position in today’s NFL. This kid might even make the front office spend the 16th pick on him — he’s that good. Regardless he would be half of what could be one of the best safety tandem’s in the league, certainly one of the best duos in Carolina history.