I’m not going to grade the Panthers 2013 draft. That would be pointless. How can you place a grade on players that have yet to play a down of football? Even basing your grade on how you feel about the picks is pointless. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is how that player plays the game of football at the NFL level.
However, I will say that I am very happy with this draft. It didn’t go nearly the way I thought that it would, but I made my peace with my expectations when the Panthers picked Star Lotulelei at 14 overall. I was screaming offensive line for the entire offseason. but Star was too good to pass on.
As I said, things didn’t go my way. The Panthers took two defensive tackles in the first two rounds. I crinkled my brow in confusion at the Kawann Short pick. I’ll admit that. I had the same reaction to the Edmund Kugbila pick. I didn’t see the logic in drafting another D-2 guard. When the Panthers took A.J. Klein I realized what was going on. Dave Gettleman wasn’t drafting for Ron Rivera’s future. Dave Gettleman was drafting for the road that beyond, the road that may not include Ron Rivera.
Let’s not forget the mountainous task that Dave Gettleman has before him in regards to the Panthers salary cap woes. There are several players with large contracts that could be casualties come the offseason next year. Jon Beason, Deangelo Williams, Charles Godfrey. These are players that got paid as if they were top 10 players at their positions. Beason was, but has not earned the contract that he was given. So what do you do? You look for replacements. Cheaper replacements. It’s chess, not checkers.
A.J. Klein could be looked at as a replacement for Beason, just as Kenjon Barner can be looked at as a replacement for Deangelo Williams. He has freedom with Kugbila because he’s going to take time to develop. He’s not worried about plugging him in as a starter. Gettleman has the luxury of letting him develop. Ron Rivera does not. Running back is no longer a premium position anymore. Barner could make a difference as a kick returner immediately, be a third down back, catch some passes in space out of the backfield, and produce. He intelligently made draft picks based upon what our true need is. And our true need is salary cap relief.
Also, I think that we’re going to have one of the best front seven’s in football if injuries don’t pile up on us. Our offense hasn’t had much difficulty scoring points the past couple of seasons, they just didn’t get any help from the defense until the mid-point of last season when the playoffs were already out of reach. I see good things on the horizon for the Carolina Panthers. And I’ll grade this draft in three years. Just be patient until then.