SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Mike Mayock, lead draft analyst for the NFL Network, visited training camp Wednesday and took in Panthers practice.
Mayock shared his most recent thoughts on Carolina's draft class, starting with first-round defensive tackle Vernon Butler (30th overall).
"I've been really anxious to see the Butler kid. When I watched his tape against Kansas State, I thought, 'Wow, for his size – 325 pounds – this kid has the movement skills of a Michael Brockers, and Linval Joseph, maybe a Muhammad Wilkerson.' Those are three guys with a very similar height and weight to him, and I think that's what the Panthers are expecting.
"I give (general manager) Dave Gettleman a ton of credit. People ask why you would take a defensive tackle? I'm sure Dave would say. 'Because he was the best player on the board.' Dave picks good football players, and between him and Ron (Rivera), they know what a Carolina Panther looks like and smells like. That's why they draft so well."
The Panthers could survive a slow start to Butler's career but might not have the same luxury at cornerback, where they drafted three prospects in a row in James Bradberry (second round), Daryl Worley (third round) and Zack Sanchez. What do you think of the "Three Amigos"?
"Everybody in the world knew corner was a need for them, so they had to go corner – and they drafted three of them. If you look at the first two, Bradberry and Worley, what you see is length and size, and that's what (defensive coordinator) Sean McDermott wants out there. Bradberry reminds me of a young (Antonio) Cromartie. He's got length, he's got size, he's got moving skills – ran 4.5. When you've got a guy that long and that athletic and not afraid you tackle – you should see him attack bubble screens on tape – that's a piece of clay you want to mold. Long corners who can run don't last long in the draft.
"Worley was up and down a little bit, but you can't minimize that the fact the kid played well when he was healthy and that he's got ability with his size and moving skills as well. Sanchez, he was one of the most opportunistic corners in college football. It always seemed like with three of them that the ball found them and they all have ball skills."
Do you think they'll be able to contribute right away as rookies?
"They're getting the great gift rookies can get – the gift of repetitions – and it's been fun for me to see them compete. Through two-minute drills, seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven, none of them backed down.
"If you challenge them early, get them immersed early in all the verbiage – the mind part is the toughest part – then they'll play fast because they're not thinking. That's why I like that they're getting first-team reps, that they're getting all of this now so that as they get into the preseason and into Week 1, they're going to be ready to play."
Do you think the Panthers are ready to win a fourth consecutive NFC South title?
"I think Tampa is going to be better this year – they're going to be competitive. I think Atlanta is going to be better. New Orleans is a little bit of a question mark defensively, but every week, the other team is going to bring its 'A Game' against the Carolina Panthers."
View photos from Carolina's sixth training camp practice.