CHARLOTTE – Just as general manager Marty Hurney predicted a couple days before the draft, the action in Carolina's war room cranked up after pick No. 18.
That's when the Packers selected cornerback Jaire Alexander, one of the prospects the Panthers were very high on.
At No. 19 the Cowboys took linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and at No. 20, the Lions went with guard/center Frank Ragnow, another prospect Carolina really liked but figured would be taken a few spots ahead of them.
With the 21st pick, the Bengals picked another interior O-lineman – Billy Price – and suddenly things began to take shape for the Panthers.
The Titans took linebacker Rashaan Evans at 22 and the Patriots selected offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn at 23, putting the Panthers on the clock with the top receivers, DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley, both available.
The fact that both were still on the board was surprising. The fact that Carolina went with Moore was not. With the clock ticking, a final debate wasn't necessary. Moore was their guy.
Before Hurney positioned Moore high on the board, before offensive coordinator Norv Turner and receivers coach Lance Taylor fell for Moore at his pro day, it was area scout Robert Haines who first put the Maryland junior on the Panthers' collective radar.
"He just jumped out at you," said Haines, a 16-year scouting veteran who evaluates the Northeast. "That was a bad football team he played on with four different quarterbacks. Balls were going all over the place. But he played hard the entire time. That Ohio State game they were getting crushed, and he's still making plays and blocking. That made a big impression.
"He was consistent with that competitiveness and toughness every game."
Moore's tape and production spoke for itself. The staff at Maryland then spoke glowingly on his behalf.
"Up there I talked to (former All-Pro center) Kevin Glover, their pro liaison who played in the league forever, and I mean, he's just a top-notch kid," Haines said. "The strength coach, academic advisors – no one says a bad word about him. Great personality. He looks you in the eye. All the intangibles we're looking for."
It quickly became clear the Panthers had found a legitimate option for their first-round pick.
"We really liked him starting early in the draft process, even before it seemed like everybody else fell in love with him," Taylor said. "Obviously, when he ran fast at the combine, now everybody sees the size and speed."
Moore's combine performance got the entire league's attention. He measured in at 6-foot, 210 pounds and ran an impressive 4.42 in the 40-yard dash.
Then came his pro day, and the Panthers arrived en masse to watch him put on a show.
"When I saw him in person at pro day, I realized how good an athlete he is and how smooth and effortless he makes it look," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "And we know he's a physical player who turns into a running back when he gets the ball in his hands.
Added Haines: "When you get right on top of him like you are at pro day, just so smooth and you felt his strength and power. He caught the ball extremely well. He caught punts easily.
"By far one of the most impressive workouts I've seen from a receiver."
That's not to say that Moore is a perfect prospect. Due to Maryland's quarterback inconsistencies and struggles in pass protection, Moore's route tree was rather limited. The Terrapins essentially tried to get him the ball quickly and let his athletic ability take over, which proved to be a smart strategy given their situation.
"He's going to have to learn multiple positions here, and at Maryland there wasn't a whole lot in terms of his route tree," Haines explained. "But there is nothing saying he can't run the full route tree.
"It's a real low fail factor on the kid."
In Moore, the Panthers see all the traits they're looking for in a wide receiver. You never know how draft day will unfold with all its unpredictable twists and turns, but it sure sounds like Moore is heading to a team that has been planning for his arrival for quite some time.
"I told you (during the pre-draft visit) we hoped we'd see you again," Hurney told Moore on the phone after submitting the pick. "Well, now it starts."