Some NFL Draft analysts believed the Panthers dropped the ball by passing on the defensive back position. Some didn't understand why the Panthers drafted a running back at all.
Any criticism, however, was trumped by what the Panthers did at the top of the draft, selecting Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the No. 14 pick.
"By all rights, Lotulelei shouldn't have been available at No. 14. Just a few months ago, people were talking about him as perhaps the No. 1 overall pick," wrote ESPN.com blogger Pat Yasinskas in calling it the NFC South's best move of the draft. "Put Lotulelei in a rotation with (second-round pick Kawann) Short and Dwan Edwards, and defensive tackle suddenly becomes a strength for Carolina. With the infusion of talent in the middle of the line, a Carolina front seven that's good everywhere else could become a real force."
A truly accurate assessment of the Panthers' five-player draft class can't be made until the selections have a chance to prove their worth on the field, but here's a look at some first impressions from around NFL nation.
--NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock was a strong voice in the almost universal praise of Lotulelei: "You can see explosion and quickness in his game. He's got real good, quick hands and great get-off. He's going to get you some push in the pass game, and a defensive coordinator like Sean McDermott is going to love having a piece to move around in sub packages."
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Lotulelei "a stud," having ranked him as the third-best player in the draft.
--Pete Prisco, senior NFL columnist for CBSSports.com, called the selection of Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short the Panthers' best pick: "He is a wide body who will help in a big way in the middle."
--McShay called Valdosta State guard Edmund Kugbila, the Panthers' fourth-round pick, a developing player with a lot of talent: "I'd like to see a little bit more toughness and a little bit more of a mean streak out of him, but he can move. He has good feet. He had a great workout at the combine and has long arms."
--McShay said fifth-round linebacker A.J. Klein from Iowa State can run and hit and should contribute immediately on special teams, thoughts echoed and expanded on by fellow ESPN analyst Mel Kiper: "You think about production and versatility. He played inside and outside linebacker, and this kid can run – 4.65 in the 40."
--Kiper loves the abilities of Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, the Panthers' sixth-round selection: "Adds to that stable of running backs. He can get to the perimeter and turn on the jets. He hits the hole with authority. Blocking is an issue – he's got to improve in that aspect – but he's a better receiver than LaMichael James was coming out of Oregon last year."
--Nate Davis of USA Today gave the Panthers a B-plus: "Star Lotulelei (Round 1) and Kawann Short (Round 2 with Round 1 talent) could form one of the league's scariest lines in between DEs Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. Sixth-round RB Kenjon Barner could be a slippery change-of-pace option."
--Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News gave them a B-: "They can plug in Utah's Star Lotulelei and Purdue's Kawann Short as complementary impact players inside to help free up 2012 first-round linebacker Luke Kuechly — the reigning rookie of the year — to have a bigger second season inside."
--Prisco called Kugbila a "third-day gem" while giving the overall draft a B-: "Dave Gettleman, in his first draft with the team, made this a big-man draft. Solid start."
--Kiper gave Carolina a C-plus overall, breaking it down further by grading the Panthers a C- for need and a B for value.