Hey Bryan, I can't help but take notice of the fact that Gettleman clearly drafted this year with a need-based mentality, whereas he's always been a staunch proponent of going best player available irrespective of position. This worries me. What are your thoughts? – Kyle in Huntersville, N.C.
Honestly, I consider that assessment to be off-base.
I understand why some people feel that way after the Panthers took cornerbacks with three consecutive picks less than two weeks after parting ways with All-Pro corner Josh Norman. But general manager Dave Gettleman was insistent after the draft that the corners were his highest graded prospects still on the board, and it makes sense to me. If the Panthers had, for example, taken tight ends with three consecutive picks, people would have said they clearly took the best available players rather than basing their picks on need. The fact that the picks were corners is what leads people to say it was need-based despite Gettleman's assertion.
Admittedly, the "best available player" approach has its limits. The Panthers would not have used three consecutive picks on tight ends, and no doubt Norman's departure had some influence – especially if it came time to pick and a cornerback and a tight end, for example, had the same draft grade. And, if Gettleman had stayed put in the third round and not traded up to take Daryl Worley, there's a good chance a different position would have been picked because of how the board would have changed.
The biggest example that Gettleman's draft approach is alive and well was, of course, the first round. He didn't hesitate to jump on defensive tackle Vernon Butler even with standouts Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei and two solid rotational players on the roster. In addition, tight end isn't exactly a glaring need, but Carolina wrapped up the draft by taking tight end Beau Sandland.
The Panthers did not receive a great draft rating this year. Is this because they didn't draft any offensive line players other than a tight end? – Jonathan in Morrow, Ga.
Yes, any low grades (or high grades for that matter) rarely have much to do with what the grader thinks about the players drafted. Instead, it's usually some combination of whether the draft addressed perceived needs and whether it secured prospects before or after the analyst believes the player should have been drafted.
I bet you can guess what Gettleman thinks about perceived needs, perceived value and by extension draft grades. Gettleman probably appreciates Pro Football Talk's approach to draft grades, giving every team an incomplete. That is the most accurate grade anyone can give at this point.
Gettleman doesn't care if you think cornerback James Bradberry could have been taken in the fourth round instead of the second (and, by the way, I doubt he could have). He cares about his team's evaluation of Bradberry from a talent perspective but also from a fit perspective, and he hopes that at the end of the draft, the Panthers' grades for the players picked exceed the value of the spots Carolina picked in. As I previously wrote, getting a mid-first rounder at the end of the first round, a mid-second rounder at the end of the second round, another second-rounder in the third round and a fourth-rounder in the fifth fits Gettleman's definition of draft day value.
Who do you believe will be starting opposite Bene Benwikere? Robert McClain, James Bradberry or Daryl Worley? And do you see Jeremy Cash and Keyarris Garrett making the final 53? – Matt in San Francisco
All interesting questions. I wish I could offer more definitive answers, but no one can this early. McClain came up big for the Panthers late last season and obviously knows the system better than the rookies, but it's a long ways until September 8, and roster spots – let alone starting jobs – are up for grabs. If the Panthers decided to keep all three rookie cornerbacks on their 53-man roster (not a sure bet but surely a goal), they'd presumably (but again not for sure) be joined by Benwikere and offseason acquisition Brandon Boykin. It's hard to carry more than five cornerbacks, so tough decisions must be made. Based on the zero practices the rookies have taken part in right now, I'd give Bradberry the earliest of edges over the other rookies for one simple reason – the Panthers drafted him before Worley or Zack Sanchez.
Cash and Garrett are the Panthers' prized pickups among undrafted free agents, and I'm sure the team would love to find space for them. Cash could really help himself by successfully showing off the special teams abilities he seems to possess in the preseason, and Garrett will get his chance to make plays. As always, though, it's going to be a crazy race for the final wide receiver spot.
View photos of secound-round pick, James Bradberry, and third-round pick, Daryl Worley, as they tour Bank of America Stadium.