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Even if '18 draft helps, Panthers need more from '17

Posted Apr 10, 2018

Christian McCaffrey had a record-setting rookie season. He and the Panthers could use some help from last year's other draftees.

CHARLOTTE – With eight picks in the upcoming draft, the Panthers have plenty of ammo to land at least a couple of starters and improve their depth. But drafts are an inexact science. It’s much easier to screw one up than to do what the Saints did last year. 

While New Orleans found six key contributors, including cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara - the first teammates to sweep the AP Rookie of the Year awards since 1967 - Dave Gettleman’s final draft class in Carolina turned in an incomplete grade after its debut season.

So with much of the current focus on who Marty Hurney may add at the end of the month, we shouldn’t forget about last year’s group. Because if the Panthers are going to challenge in the NFC, that class has to produce at a higher level in 2018. 

Not counting seventh-round kicker Harrison Butker, who went on to have a fantastic first season in Kansas City, the Panthers’ six picks totaled 1,089 snaps on offense and defense. Sixty-nine percent of those went to Christian McCaffrey, who also accounted for 86 percent of the yards gained and 100 percent of the touchdowns scored by last year’s class. Defensively, the two draftees combined for nine snaps.

'17 Draft Class Production
Name Games Snaps YDs TDs Tackles
RB Christian McCaffrey
16 746 1,086 7
N/A
WR Curtis Samuel 9 225 179 0 N/A
OT Taylor Moton
16 63 N/A N/A
N/A
DE Daeshon Hall 1 9 N/A N/A 0
CB Corn Elder 0 0 N/A N/A 0
FB Alex Armah 9 46 0 0 N/A
TOTAL 51 1,089 1,265 7 0

Of course, injuries were a big reason for the lack of production.

Curtis Samuel (hamstring/ankle), Daeshon Hall (knee) and Corn Elder (knee) were limited to a total of 10 games. Plus, opportunities were few and far between for Alex Armah and for Taylor Moton, whose path to playing time was blocked by the emergence Daryl Williams at right tackle.

But it’s time to turn the page. 

Samuel will be very limited during spring workouts, but his rehab is going as well as the Panthers could have hoped. Elder and Hall have been completely cleared. Armah and Moton have spent a good chunk of their offseason in Carolina's weight room.

It’s time for all of them to grab bigger roles. McCaffrey, too.

With Jonathan Stewart in New York and the Panthers unlikely to take another first-round running back, McCaffrey is the backfield’s top option. There’s also a decent chance he’ll have to play mentor for a guy picked on Day 2 or 3. 

Assuming Samuel is full-go for the start of training camp, he’ll need to prove he can stay on the field. Then he can work on stretching it, a trait the Panthers desperately missed much of last season.

Moton should get a look at left guard, but even if he doesn’t win that job, he’ll need to assure coaches he’s a dependable swing tackle.

A nagging knee injury robbed Hall of so much experience last year, no one knows what to expect in his sophomore season. But the defensive end group sure could use an uptick in depth.

Elder also has a golden opportunity to earn playing time in a secondary that’s still under construction. 

And Armah, who made a huge leap from Division II to the NFL, could convince new offensive coordinator Norv Turner he deserves some touches. Or one, at least. 

So despite the sputtering start, the 2017 draft class could still produce meaningful contributors and even a handful of starters. To compete at the top of a rapidly improving NFC, that's help the Panthers need even if Hurney drafts a few gems later this month.


Of course, injuries were a big reason for the lack of production. Curtis Samuel (hamstring/ankle), Daeshon Hall (knee) and Corn Elder (knee) were limited to a total of 10 games. Plus, opportunities were limited for Alex Armah and Taylor Moton, whose path to playing time was blocked by the emergence Daryl Williams at right tackle. But it’s time to turn the page. 
Samuel will be very limited during spring workouts, but his rehab is going as well as the Panthers could’ve hoped. Elder and Hall have been completely cleared. Armah and Moton have spent a good chunk of their offseason in Carolina's weight room. It’s time for all of them to grab bigger roles. McCaffrey, too. 
With Jonathan Stewart in New York and the Panthers unlikely to take another first-round running back, McCaffrey is the backfield’s top option. There’s also a good chance he’ll have to play mentor for a guy picked on Day 2 or 3. 
Assuming Samuel is full-go for the start of training camp, he’ll need to prove he can stay on the field. Then he can work on stretching it, a trait the Panthers desperately missed late last season.
Moton should get a look at left guard, and if he doesn’t win that job, he’ll need to assure coaches he’s a dependable swing tackle.
A nagging knee injury robbed Hall of so much experience last year, no one knows what to expect in his sophomore season. But the defensive end group sure could use an uptick in depth.
Elder also has a golden opportunity to earn playing time in a secondary that’s under construction. 
And Armah, who made a huge leap from Division II to the NFL, could convince new offensive coordinator Norv Turner he deserves some touches. Or one, at least. 
This group will probably never be confused with the Saints’ All-Stars, but it doesn’t have to win awards to be useful. Despite the sputtering start, the 2017 draft class could still produce a handful of starters. And to compete at the top of a loaded NFC, it's help the Panthers need even if Hurney finds a few gems later this month.