Carolina Panthers: Alternative 7-round 2020 NFL Draft
Carolina Panthers Round 7 (No. 221): Clay Johnston– LB (Baylor)
The Carolina Panthers lost a legendary figure in Luke Kuechly this offseason following his shock retirement. They didn’t manage to select his long-term successor in the NFL Draft. And this puts the onus on free-agent signing Tahir Whitehead to deliver in 2020.
They used their seventh-0rounder on cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, who is seen as a project that could impact the roster in the coming years with more experience playing the position. Head coach Matt Rhule had the opportunity to take one of his former players to fill the void at this spot in Clay Johnston, which he ultimately passed up.
While Rhule probably had his reasons. It does not detract from what a good value pick this might have been for the Panthers. Johnston suffered a season-ending injury in October, which saw his draft stock drop dramatically. Perhaps the coach’s inside knowledge of just how bad the injury was resulted in him looking elsewhere.
Johnston has an impressive set of tools at his disposal, which is highlighted by his tackling ability. He is also around the ball a lot and has all the instincts one looks for in a linebacker at the next level.
The prospect did manage to hear his name called a little later in the round by the Los Angeles Rams. And providing he returns to full health the player could have a role to play on special teams as he learns to iron out some of the kinks in his game.