10 IN 10: CAROLINA PANTHERS
There are now just days left until the NFL Draft. This new ‘10 in 10’ series will look at each team picking in the top ten, having started with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday and finishing with the Cincinnati Bengals next Thursday. For a more considered, in-depth look at the perfect picks for each team check out the good work of my fellow contributors at The Touchdown here:
For the purposes of simplicity, no trades will be considered in this countdown unless they occur in the days leading up to the draft itself. Each article will look at individual team needs before deciding on the right pick for each franchise, whilst also considering some alternatives at that spot.
#7: CAROLINA PANTHERS
This was the toughest pick of the ten. Despite the addition of Teddy Bridgewater Carolina could be in the market for a quarterback in this draft, but the top three are gone by this pick. They would certainly benefit from a move for Jeff Okudah, but there’s little chance he falls this far. Luke Kuechly will be missed at linebacker, but Isaiah Simmons will likely be off the board. The Panthers are in the perfect spot to trade down, but seen as though they can’t in this scenario, they’re going to take a defensive lineman.
In last year’s draft, Carolina selected a edge rusher Brian Burns with the 16th pick. He had an excellent first half of the season, but teams soon focussed their efforts on limiting his ability to get to the passer. Nevertheless, 7.5 sacks in his rookie season was a promising start to his NFL career. Another edge rusher was taken in the fourth round, Christian Miller out of Alabama. The rest of their draft was dominated by the offensive side of the ball. This year, they need to shore up their defense.
THE ''WRECKING BALL'
D-line picks are never sexy, especially for a team that went for a pass rusher with their first pick last time out. Everyone wants to take an Isaiah Simmons or a CeeDee Lamb in the draft, but those players are few and far between. Elite defenders are hard to find. Carolina were 23rd in the league in total defense in 2019. They gave up 375 yards per game. Only Miami were worse off for points conceded (494 to The Panthers’ 470). If this continues in 2020, they’re going to lose more games than they win.
That is why, with the 7th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Panthers should select Javon Kinlaw. The defensive tackle out of South Carolina would provide some much needed muscle to the Panthers’ front line. Kinlaw was one of the winners of the Combine across all positions, not only testing well but impressing reporters with his maturity and character. He amassed six sacks in twelve starts in 2019, and his ability to get to the passer would benefit his home-state team. He is an explosive defender for a man weighing 315 lbs. Growing up in abject poverty and rising through the JUCO system to get to the Draft, he has shown resilience on and off the field.
DOUBLE DOWN ON DEFENSE
The Panthers could go Derrick Brown (defensive tackle out of Auburn) here. He’s of a similar build to Kinlaw. Both have played in the SEC, the most challenging college conference for defenders to compete in. However, Kinlaw’s performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine, his superior sack rate and home-state advantage could all swing in his favour. With an early second round pick, they will be able to shore up their cornerback room, solving another pressing need.
If you’re a Panthers fan and you’re not happy with the pick, console yourself with the prospect of A full rebuild, potentially tanking in 2020 and loading up on capital for next year’s draft. It’s going to take time for Matt Rhule to turn the franchise around, and establishing a top-half defense will go a long way to bring winning seasons to Charlotte.
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD