CHARLOTTE – Greg Little said the words Panthers fans – and quarterback Cam Newton – were thrilled to hear.
“I’m going to keep him safe,” Little said in a conference call moments after being selected 37th overall by Carolina.
The Panthers were in the market for a blindside protector, and Little firmly believes he’s the man for that job.
“I want to show people that I’m the best left tackle in this draft and I’m going to be here for a long time,” Little said. “I’m a true, franchise left tackle.”
Little, a 6-foot-5, 310-pounder widely seen as a first-round talent entering the 2018 season at Ole Miss, wound up falling into the second round. When asked why, Little said something to the effect of evaluators not thinking he’s “edgy enough.”
Little disagrees, and none of that fazed the Panthers, who packaged their original second-round pick (47) with their first of two third-round picks (77) to move up 10 spots via trade with Seattle.
“Me and the GM (Marty Hurney) had a good conversation. He was true to his word,” Little said. “He said, ‘You’re a left tackle, man. I’m a big fan of yours and I think you can come in and help us right now.’
“They believed in me. I’m just happy I was their pick in the second round and they traded up to come get me. I’m ready to come in and give it all I got.”
The Panthers gave up a valuable third-round selection because of the traits they see in Little, traits that are hard to find, particularly once the first round has come and gone.
In fact, after about the 21st pick on Thursday night, the Panthers inquired with several teams about trading back into the first round to secure Little’s services.
“I’m a really good athlete. I can get in space. I can move with the best of them,” Little said. “I played against the highest competition at Ole Miss in the SEC and I held it down. I take big pride in pass pro. It irks me even losing a rep in pass pro. That’s what I do; that’s my best trait.”
Former Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, who was taken seventh overall by the Jaguars, had rave reviews for his former SEC counterpart.
“He’s a dog. He’s one of the best tackles in the draft,” Allen told the Daily Journal before the draft. “He’s a real balanced, poised tackle. He’s strong at the point of attack and can move his feet as well."
Bottom line: Little can protect the passer.
And that’s a big deal.
“I feel like Cam will be happy. He’s going to be safe and he’s going to have time to do what he needs to do, which is get the ball out and produce,” Little said.
“I’m excited to come in and show people in Carolina I’m their guy. I’m not going to let nobody down.”
Photos of Greg Little from his days at Ole Miss.