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Carolina Panthers 2016 NFL Draft Review

Carolina Panthers 2016 NFL Draft Review: Last Word on Sports evaluates how the Panthers performed in terms of upgrading their roster by the draft.

The Carolina Panthers were the tragic losers of the NFL season in 2015, having lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos in February. However, they finished the regular season 15-1 and were considered the best team in football up until the final game. After Josh Norman slipped away to Washington, via the organization pulling his franchise tender, the Panthers were left vulnerable at the cornerback position just days before the NFL Draft.

That being said, here are their selections:

1st Round, 30th Overall: Vernon Butler, defensive tackle, Louisiana Tech

2nd Round, 62nd Overall: James Bradberry, cornerback, Samford

3rd Round, 77th Overall: Daryl Worley, cornerback, West Virginia

5th Round, 141st Overall: Zack Sanchez, cornerback, Oklahoma

7th Round, 252nd Overall: Beau Sandland, tight end, Montana State

Panthers’ 2016 Draft Grade: 8.5/10

Carolina Panthers 2016 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Vernon Butler is the best player from Carolina’s draft class.  He’s 6’4” 320 pounds and has explosive hands.  He’s very quick off the ball and multiple teams raved about his athletic ability throughout the scouting process.  He started every game over the past two seasons for Louisiana Tech.  Butler is also very young.  He played four years of college football and won’t even turn 22 until June.  He could create a lot of havoc in the trenches for Carolina in the not-too-distant future.

The Head-Scratcher: Carolina definitely played it pretty safe in the draft this year and went mainly with what they needed. But if there was one head-scratcher, it would be Zack Sanchez.  Sanchez started 37 games for the Oklahoma Sooners over the past three seasons, and predominantly played a big role on that team.  Unfortunately, the consensus is that his size just won’t hold up over the long haul of an NFL career.  He may have explosive moments here and there, but standing at a shade under 5’11” and barely weighing 185 pounds, Sanchez isn’t the ideal profile for a defensive back in the modern day NFL.  Multiple scouts also criticized him for his lazy, inconsistent footwork, and poor tackling ability even for his size.

The Surprise: Landing Daryl Worley in the third round was the biggest surprise for the Panthers draft class this year.  Worley was one of the nation’s leaders with six interceptions last year at West Virginia.  He also stands 6’1” and weighs 205 pounds, which is more of a prototype mold for this era of football.  Most scouts credit Worley with fantastic ball skills and excellent leaping ability.

The Steal: Daryl Worley is also the steal of this year’s draft for the Panthers.  The only reason he slipped into the third round was because of his poor 40-yard dash performance at the combine (4.64).  But on film Worley plays much faster, and the Panthers are banking on that to maintain at the NFL level.

Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: James Bradberry is this season’s draft candidate to turn heads in training camp.  Bradberry received some criticism after being selected 62nd overall in this year’s draft; but his athleticism and versatility will help him prove his doubters wrong this fall.  At 6’1” and 210 pounds, Bradberry could slot in at safety or cornerback, and has familiarity with all the roles in the defensive backfield.  He was a four-year starter at Samford, and is very comfortable and strong in a zone defense like Carolina’s.  His only glaring hole to most scouts is his man-to-man press coverage ability, especially against quicker receivers.  His skill set to defend the slot and even switch to safety could help mask this hole in his game while it develops in Carolina.

The Rest: Beau Sandland, the Panthers’ seventh round selection, is a 6’4” 250 pound tight end prospect from Montana State.  Sandland was the number one JUCO tight end coming out of Pierce College in California three years ago.  He could be big time value for a seventh round pick.

The Bottom Line: Carolina mainly needed to fill the void left by Josh Norman at cornerback.  They did so by adding three corners in the middle rounds of the 2016 NFL draft.  With some interesting prospects and developmental projects on their hands, they will head into this season without much room to improve upon their 15-1 record from last year’s NFC Champion team.


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