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Carolina Panthers: Defensive Back Draft Day Disaster

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If you’re a Carolina Panthers fan then the NFL Draft provided you with visions of players that could help lead them back to the Super Bowl, but it didn’t truly benefit the team.

The Panthers were not the same team in the Super Bowl that they were during the regular season and the playoffs leading up to the big game. They choked, forgot how to play, were scared or whatever but what it boiled down to was, they lost.

It hurt. It hurt the team, the fans and the NFL as a whole to see a team steamroll their way through as a true Cinderella only to lose the glass slipper in the 11th hour, but there was promise, a promise of a better tomorrow. Well that was until Josh Norman decided money was better than what he and his teammates started in 2015.

Norman was let out of his franchise tag and the Panther watched as he became a free agent and walked out the door. So what would they do now that their “shut down” corner bolted for the Washington Redskins and $50M guaranteed?

Hit panic mode.

Yes, they drafted his replacement and then some but why? Before Norman walked away were they hell-bent on drafting a whole new secondary? His departure was a punch in the gut, not only to the fans but the organization. Did GM Dave Gettleman decide this was the time to show Norman who ran this ship by saying we can take another player from a no name school and turn him into a future $50M dollar man?

I’m not saying that James Bradberry, Daryl Worley or Zack Sanchez cannot duplicate what Norman did through his career, let’s be honest here, Norman was a nobody until 2015. He was often injured and burned but he came on strong last season. The new guys have potential but there were more pressing needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The Carolina Panthers are set at QB with MVP Cam Newton and backup Derek Anderson, the TE position is great with Greg Olsen but the main areas of concern should’ve been RB and WR.

Jonathan Stewart rushed for 900+ yards in 2015 but he was still bothered by injuries and the second leading rusher was Newton. The Panthers must have high hope for Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne, that’s the only reason I can see why they would pass on the opportunity to draft Derrick Henry. Remember when Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were wrecking havoc on the league as Double Trouble? The pairing of Henry and Stewart, coupled with Newton could’ve put the Panthers ground attack up there with the best in history, but this draft was about what Norman accomplished and how he left the team.

The WR position is not as solid as everyone thinks. Granted, Ted Ginn had an amazing season but can he produce again? How will Kelvin Benjamin respond after missing an entire season? How much can the Panthers really expect from Devin Funchess after his shaky rookie campaign?

The one bright spot of the draft was their signing of free agent rookie and leading receiver Keyarris Garrett. He has the size but critics question his speed and injury history. That comes with the territory, last season he was healthy and we saw what he was able to do. Garrett could easily become the steal of the draft, not just for the Panthers but the league .

The Panthers entered the 2016 draft with one goal– strengthen their team. Norman’s decision played a huge role in the selection process but the defeat they took at the hands of the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl was the other deciding factor. The Broncos defense put the clamps on the high-scoring Panthers offense but that was due to a lack of production to a slightly injured Stewart and the inability of Ginn, Funchess or Corey Brown to get open. The defense performed well for the Panthers but the offense went into hibernation.

They have the defense to win a ring, it’s the offense that may have needed special attention during the draft.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com