The Carolina Panthers just completed their annual acquisition of a bunch of players that have yet to play an NFL snap. It’s too early to tell which, if any, of Carolina’s draft picks will pan out but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try any way. So without further ado, here are the grades for the Carolina Panthers’ 2014 draft class:
-First Round, Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin: A-
The ideal marriage of value and need made it an easy selection for Dave Gettleman. While he had some drop concerns at Florida State, Benjamin has as high of a ceiling as any receiver in this draft and could fill the void left by Steve Smith for a number one target. Cam Newton is happy.
-Second Round, Defensive End Kony Ealy: A
Many will question giving this high of a grade for a defensive end when the team already has Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Well, one or both won’t be in Carolina by 2015 and Panthers fans will be glad they have Ealy when that happens. The former Missouri Tiger was one of 30 players invited to New York City because he had been projected to go in the first round before the draft. To be able to take him at number 60 is highway robbery. Gettleman said that, “When I watched (Ealy) on tape, I felt like I was looking at a young Osi Umenyiora. He’s got that kind of athletic ability.”
-Third Round, Offensive Guard Trai Turner: B
The LSU product ran a 4.93 40 yard dash, which was the third fastest of any offensive lineman at the NFL Combine behind Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan, both first round offensive tackles. He’s a good value in the third round and should immediately start at right guard.
-Fourth Round, Safety Tre Boston: D+
I don’t mind addressing the secondary here but Boston wasn’t a great value. He lead UNC in tackles the last two seasons but he’s an inconsistent tackler in space. He lacks significant upside from an athletic standpoint. His impact will have to be on special teams.
-Fifth Round, Cornerback Bené Benwikere, San Jose State: B+
Solid value for Benwikere, who holds many school records at San Jose State. He had the second highest vertical leap of any cornerback in the draft at 40.5 inches. He’s going to be very valuable as a nickelback covering the slot for years to come.
-Sixth Round, Running Back Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: B-
Carolina takes a running back in the sixth round for the second consecutive draft. While Kenjon Barner is a speed back, Gaffney is a powerful runner at 5’11” 220 lbs. Perhaps when Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are no longer on the roster in 2015 or 2016, the two can form a nice one-two punch in the backfield.
Overall Grade: B+
Not taking an offensive tackle at any point in this draft was questionable but it’s hard to disagree with most of these picks. Benjamin, Ealy, and Turner should play significant snaps in 2014 and it wouldn’t be surprising if Benwikere does as well. Gaffney will bring some toughness to the backfield and could be a big part of the running game in the future. Taking Boston in the fourth round where he wasn’t an incredible value over an offensive tackle prevents this draft from getting an A grade.