NFL Draft coverage is usually quick to point out that a comprehensive evaluation of a team's draft is impossible until several years down the road. Players evolve, some picks show great value and others don't work out for whatever reason.
But there is still plenty of analysis and review of how well each team went about their process, found value and filled team needs. So let's take a look at the final grades of a Panthers draft class that set an NFL record with seven consecutive defensive picks.
"Head coach Matt Rhule bolstered the team's talent up front with the picks of Brown and Gross-Matos, then aided the secondary with safety Chinn in the third round, speedy corner Pride in the fourth, former West Virginia and XFL player Robinson in the fifth, and the tall Thomas-Oliver in Round 7. Rhule also picked up his former Baylor pupil Roy, yet another defensive lineman. They went all defense in this draft, and they still could use help at guard and tight end."
"With a new coach and a whole lot of roster turnover (longtime starters Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Trai Turner, Luke Kuechly, Mario Addison and James Bradberry are all gone), the Panthers are in the beginning stages of a serious rebuild. They have their quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, just gave running back Christian McCaffrey a big extension, and now coach Matt Rhule can start fresh with the way he wants to shape the roster.
That's why it was nice to see Rhule & Co. take the best player available with the team's first three picks. Get talent, don't reach for a need, particularly when you don't have to win immediately. Derrick Brown (7) is the best defensive tackle in this class, and he'll create an outrageously talented interior duo with Kawann Short. He's not Aaron Donald, but he's going to be a really good player for years. Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (38) and safety Jeremy Chinn (64) are nice Day 2 picks and potential early starters. Carolina gave up an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per rush last season, and these are picks to get the defense back on track. In fact, it finished with seven draft picks and seven defenders.
Safety Kenny Robinson (152), the first prospect drafted who played in the XFL, just finds the ball, and a year of playing professional football and getting professional coaching means he could be a candidate to play early. Cornerback Troy Pride Jr. (113) is a blazer and solid value pick -- I have him No. 86 in my rankings. Rhule even got one of his former Baylor players with defensive tackle Bravvion Roy (184).
Overall, the Panthers went all-in on their defense and didn't reach. I can get behind that. This is a solid if unspectacular class."
"The nice part about a full-scale rebuilding project is it gives you a lot of options in the draft. (Though it appears the Panthers may have only been aware of half of theirs, as they became the first team in modern history to take only defensive players in an entire draft.) Like in previous years, the Panthers, whose front office is still headed by GM Marty Hurney, laid their foundational blocks in the defensive trenches.
Derrick Brown has superb athleticism, given his thundering size. The question is if that athleticism extends far enough to make him a consistently high-level pass rusher. No matter how dominant he might be as a run defender, it's hard to justify taking any defensive lineman in the top 10 in today's NFL if he can't get to the quarterback. But pairing Brown with Kawann Short will, at the very least, make the Panthers dominant inside and make life easier on Luke Kuechly's replacement at middle linebacker.
They got physically stronger at the spot next to Brown, too, finding in Yetur Gross-Matos a classic, imposingly built 4-3 style defensive end who, thanks to the departure of veterans Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin, will likely assume a significant rotational role right away.
Behind them, at safety, free agent pickup Juston Burris quietly did some very nice things for Cleveland last year and deserves a chance to start alongside free safety Tre Boston, but it was wise of Carolina to invest in a third option, especially given that Burris is versatile and may wind up playing multiple positions in a "big nickel" or dime sub-package anyway. Of note: Jeremy Chinn played a lot of Quarters coverage at Southern Illinois. That matchup-zone coverage is one this Panthers secondary has played in recent years and one new defensive coordinator Phil Snow may put in the arsenal."
"The Panthers didn't mess around with their defensive rebuild for Matt Rhule. Marty Hurney was locked in for impact players at positions of need, starting with Brown. Gross-Matos is a good complement to Brian Burns, while Chinn will make a ton of plays everywhere for them. Pride was a tremendous value pick to help replace James Bradberry, too. Great recognition to know the team is loaded offensively and needed to get much better overall on the other side."
"I'm betting Matt Rhule didn't expect to come out of his first draft class without an offensive player, but that's exactly what happened, as the Panthers went 7-for-7 on defense to start their new era.
Auburn's Derrick Brown is the cornerstone of their defensive rebuild, and he's got the size and athleticism to be a dominant force for years to come. Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos was a steal in the second round, and the Panthers wisely traded back into the bottom of the second for a dynamic linebacker/safety hybrid in Southern Illinois' Jeremy Chinn.
Carolina loaded up on secondary help to close things out on Day 3, highlighted by a bargain in Notre Dame's Troy Pride, Jr., who impressed at the Senior Bowl. Baylor's Bravvion Roy gives Carolina yet another big body for the interior of their defensive line."
"The Panthers got things started in a big way with their draft. Literally. The Panthers' run defense was bad last season, but the addition of monstrous first-round pick Derrick Brown will greatly improve that area. Brown is a dominant lineman who can move blockers around with ease.
Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos was a productive player in college, and gives the Panthers a physical and athletic edge player.
Jeremy Chinn is a big, fast, explosive safety who can play press man coverage and work in the box. The Panthers traded up at the end of the second round to get him, and in Chinn they should have a good starter.
The Panthers continued rounding out the defense on the third day of the draft with cornerback Troy Pride Jr., safety Kenny Robinson, and defensive tackle Bravvion Roy. Of those three, Robinson could make the quickest impact. The former XFL player has speed and is a willing tackler.
The Panthers needed to fix their defense, and they used all seven of their picks on that side of the ball.
"After picking Brown over the versatile Isaiah Simmons, the Panthers doubled back with Simmons Light (Chinn). And Gross-Matos was the draft's second-best defensive end."