The Carolina Panthers drafted eight players in the NFL Draft earlier this month. They addressed needs across the board, but how many rookies are able to contribute and contribute early. An emphasis on speed was taken with this year’s draft class. This infusion is needed after Carolina had a slow wide receiving core, defensive line, and secondary last year.
The first round brought Carolina their pick of wide receivers and they decided on D.J Moore out of Maryland. The Panthers haven’t had a consistent threat among wide receivers since the heyday of the Steve Smith era. Moore brings 4.4 speed to a receiving corps that had not invested heavily in speed the past few years. Last year’s second-round pick Curtis Samuel ran a 4.31 at last years combine. However, Samuel couldn’t stay on the field consistently and ended on injured reserve due to an ankle injury. The Panthers need a consistent speed receiver and barring injuries have found that in Moore. He showed versatility in the rookie minicamps practicing slot, out wide, jet sweeps, and returning punts.
Carolina’s second-round pick Donte Jackson brings speed and swagger to a secondary that desperately needs it, especially after losing Josh Norman in the 2015 campaign. Jackson ran a 4.32 at this year’s combine, tying for the fastest overall player at the event. His speed is noteworthy, but his versatility, having played nickel back, out wide, and occasional safety for LSU, is paramount to the Panthers pick. Carolina needed a quick corner to keep up with the rest of the NFC South and Jackson can be that option.
Tight-end Ian Thomas, the Panthers fourth-round pick, is a needed weapon after losing backup tight end Ed Dickson to Seattle. Thomas will take time t0 develop in the NFL however, he did tie for fifth fastest forty. Jeff Morrow, director of college scouting for the Panthers stated, “By no means is he a finished product. He’s raw. But you could see the talent. He has the height, weight, and speed you look for.”
Marquis Haynes out of Ole Miss is a speed rusher in the mold of fellow Panther Mario Addison. Haynes left Ole Miss as the career sack leader with 32 over four years. He ran a fast forty at the combine with a 4.67 time and brings youth to an aging defensive line.
The remaining Carolina Panthers drafted Rashaan Gaulden (third-round), Jermaine Carter Jr. (fifth-round), Andre Smith (seventh-round), and Kendrick Norton (seventh-round) don’t necessarily add speed to the roster. They each will add depth and provide competition for the rest of the team. The Panthers filled plenty of needs in the 2018 NFL Draft, with hope to lead to a deep playoff run.