If the Carolina Panthers offense is going to have a bit of a rebirth this upcoming season, offensive coordinator Mike Shula will have to help make that happen.
When the Panthers chose Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick last Thursday, the team spoke volumes about its need to improve its running game. McCaffrey a star at Stanford, will be asked to run and catch passes and play any role the organization asks of him. The former Heisman Trophy finalist jumps into a situation where the Panthers need to rediscover the magic that took them to a Super Bowl two short years ago.
“We’ve got big plans for you,’’ Shula told McCaffrey by phone Thursday night after the decision was made, according to an inside look at the draft on the team website. “You’re going to make us better right away.’’
Those comments, which appear on ESPN.com, are part of the push this team envisions with an offense firing on all cylinders.
“We know how you work. We know what the game means to you. We’re going to score a bunch of touchdowns now, right? You and Cam [Newton] are going to be a great combination.”
If McCaffery is successful in his rookie season and can team with Jonathan Stewart to move the football, then head coach Ron Rivera and his staff have found the magic this team had in 2015.
The Carolina Panthers added help on offense with their first three picks over the weekend, but also found depth on the defensive side of the ball. Here is a look at their draft picks with analysis and grades.
Round 1 (pick 8) – Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
A solid pick, but I am not sure how this team envisions him. If the Panthers are looking for a 20-carry per game back, he is not the guy. If they are looking for a change of pace runner, a solid receiver and a gimmick type guy, then McCaffrey has a long future in this league. Few teams put so much emphasis on the running game. McCaffrey is good, but is he top 10 good?
Round 2 (pick 40) – Curtis Samuel, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Samuel was the first wide receiver selected in the second round. I like his size at 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds. Can he be a scoring threat in this offense? The Carolina Panthers need another pass catching weapon. Ohio State wideouts have a history of finding success on the next level. This could be a very good pick for this franchise.
Round 2 (pick 64) – Taylor Moton, Tackle, Western Michigan
He certainly has the size at 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds. The idea is for Moton to play in a reserve role behind Daryl Williams before moving into the starting rotation. I like this pick because Moton could be a star in the making and adds quality line depth early in the draft.
Round 3 (pick 77) – Daeshon Hall, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Another quality pick, this time to help with the pass rush. The Panthers are hopeful that Hall, who played with the top pick Myles Garrett, has the skills to become an every-down pass rusher in the NFL. H has nice size and speed and could play on the edge or with a hand on the ground.
Round 5 (pick 152) – Corn Elder, Defensive Back, Miami
There is no reason this kid can’t be a star in the NFL. I am a bit shocked he slipped this far, given so many people talked about him being a sleeper pick. Elder is fast, has nice size and can cover speedy wideouts. He will also help this team in the return game and could become a starter down the road.
Round 6 (pick 192) – Alex Armah, Fullback, West Georgia
A jack of all trades in college. Played linebacker, tight end and defensive end in college. The Panthers will ask him to block and possibly move the football at the goal line or on short third-down situations.
Round 7 (pick 233) Harrison Butler, Kicker, Georgia Tech
Has a chance to make the team. Will push Graham Gano and is the Yellow Jackets’ all-time leading scorer.
Analysis – The Carolina Panthers used their first three picks for need. Furthermore, they have improved their offense and should have three quality players for the foreseeable future. The McCaffrey pick bothers me because I don’t think he is in this league more than five years. However, if he pans out, this is a very good draft class. Moton and Hall could be the class of this year’s draft. GRADE – C