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2017 Draft Review: Panthers check boxes

Posted May 1, 2017

Multi-talented draft class manages to add playmakers, speed, front-line prospects, depth and competition in one fell swoop.

CHARLOTTE – When general manager Dave Gettleman catches some much-needed sleep at the end of each NFL Draft, the hope is he sleeps well knowing he filled some needs without filling out a draft card with a name being selected sooner than it should be.

Mission accomplished.

"Does this draft check a lot of boxes? Yes," Gettleman said. "We're very pleased with where we were in terms of every single guy taken.

"We all sit down together up there after the season and we talk about our team and what our needs are, and the best thing for me is when I come down here and look at you guys to say we didn't reach for anybody."

Here's a look back the Panthers' attempt to check boxes via the draft.

Game-changer at running back?

The Panthers checked this box – and maybe more than once. First-round selection Christian McCaffrey is a dynamic prospect known for his explosiveness and versatility but undervalued in terms of his inside running ability. Gettleman then doubled-down in the second round with Curtis Samuel, a wide receiver first who can line up at running back as well with 4.31 speed in tow.

Speed in the slot?

This one gets a double-checkmark as well, again thanks to Samuel and McCaffrey. Samuel should be able to replace what the Panthers lost in terms of speed with the departure of free agent Ted Ginn, Jr., and to boot McCaffrey is viewed as one of the most polished route runners from the slot in the entirety of the draft.

The Panthers not only addressed the slot position; they addressed the need for speed in the slot and beyond.

"Everybody from Christian, Curtis to Daeshon (Hall) to Corn (Elder)," head coach Ron Rivera said. "All give us what we think is that quickness and speed that you look for."

Complement at tight end?

The Panthers didn't add a tight end in the draft, a reminder that it's usually not even mathematically possible to check off every box in every draft. The value, it turned out, fell at different positions, and Gettleman stuck to his guns. He said before the draft that the state of the roster allowed the team to not reach based on need.

Another thing Gettleman likes to say is that the answer sometimes is on your roster. Greg Olsen is the answer to many a question and is signed through 2018, and Ed Dickson has proven his worth as a backup while Chris Manhertz is an intriguing developing player. In addition, while McCaffrey and Samuel aren't tight ends of course, they (and perhaps fullback Alex Armah) have the skills to take over some of the safety-valve role that Olsen fills in addition to his countless other contributions.

More talent at offensive tackle?

While the Panthers remain optimistic about Michael Oher's return and Daryl Williams' ability to develop, it made sense to add another right tackle option. Late second-round pick Taylor Moton certainly fits the bill, appearing to be pro-ready in addition to being ready to pitch in at guard if called upon.

Injection of youth at defensive end?

The Panthers entered the draft in good shape in terms of pass rushers, but when Mario Addison turns 30 days before the regular season kicks off, the team's three most proven rushers will all be 30-somethings. So Gettleman pounced when Texas A&M prospect Deashon Hall was still on the board early in the third round, trading up to grab an athletic specimen who is now in position to learn from one of the ultimate athletic specimens (Julius Peppers) and from one of the more savvy veterans (Charles Johnson) around.

Depth at defensive back?

Corn Elder brings more than just a memorable name to the table. The Panthers' fifth-round choice is a perfect prospect to provide an option behind Captain Munnerlyn at nickel corner and has "special teams difference-maker" written all over him.

The Panthers didn't address the safety spot, but again there are only so many picks at their disposal. Besides, they already former two-time Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams in free agency to help out a group headed by a Pro Bowl-level performer in Kurt Coleman.

Creation of competition?

In addition what the already mentioned draft picks add to the equation, Armah in the sixth round could push veteran Darrel Young at fullback (or at least learn from Young to his future benefit). Rivera said after the season that the Panthers wanted to inject some competition at kicker after veteran Graham Gano was virtually unopposed last offseason. To that end, Carolina used its final pick of the draft on kicker Harrison Butker.

Last offseason, coming off a special 15-1 season, few spots on the 53-man roster were truly up for grabs. This offseason, coming off a 6-10 season, the competition should be fierce between returning players, additions in free agency and the draft class.