Amid a crazy off-season in terms of losing their top cornerback Josh Norman and drafting three straight cornerbacks in James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez, the Carolina Panthers will have a new look to their ball-hawking secondary in the upcoming season. There will be two, potentially three, familiar faces this coming training camp. The fifth-round steal from the 2014 draft, Bene Benwikere, will be returning to his stomping grounds after a broken leg ended his season early in 2015.
Carolina Panthers Cornerback Projection
Journeyman cornerback Robert McClain is also making a return to “Thieves Avenue.” McClain was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft by the Panthers. He spent time with the Jaguars, Falcons, and Patriots before making his return home to help out an injured secondary last season. Although it was not initially thought that he would return, Charles Tillman has also made it apparent that he will try to make a return too. Tillman tore his ACL late last season, which also contributed to the signings of McClain and Cortland Finnegan.
There has been little to no speculation of Finnegan making a return, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. One fan favorite who is a sleeper to make the roster is Lou Young. Young went undrafted out of Georgia Tech and spent time with multiple teams before joining the Panthers practice squad in 2014. Although Young hasn’t made the leap to the active roster yet, he may have a decent chance of making the final 53. Throughout mini-camp, Young was the last to leave the field after practice concluded and it did not go unnoticed. The existing cornerback that was hurt the most by these draft picks was Teddy Williams. Williams was a special teams ace last season, but rarely saw the field on defense. His chances to make the final 53 shrank substantially after the draft.
As far as the Panthers draft picks go, Bradberry seems to be the most NFL ready out of the gates. He is followed closely by Worley. Sanchez has struggled since rookie camp and mini-camp have started. Sanchez has made the move from outside corner (what he played in college) to nickel corner because of his size. At 5’11″ and 185 pounds, he is a little undersized for an NFL cornerback, which will make his uphill climb even steeper. Bradberry and Worley both have the size to play outside corner. This position is left open with the absence of Josh Norman. Another fresh face in this fight is Shaq Richardson, who was signed off the Titans practice squad. Not much has been seen out of Richardson so far, but he could be a deep sleeper to make some noise in camp.
53-Man Roster Cornerback Prediction
- Bene Benwikere
- James Bradberry
- Daryl Worley
- Robert McClain
- Lou Young
- Zack Sanchez
This final roster projection could be modified in the coming weeks depending on injury or if Charles Tillman potentially makes a return to this cornerback corps. Regardless, it will be a fun fight to watch until the regular season.