Usually in the NFL, it’s pretty hard for rookies to make any sort of substantial difference for any given team for any given position except maybe the quarterback. But this last draft, the Panthers landed the number eight pick after a rather disappointing 6-10 finish to the 2016 season and were able to get a top ten pick for the first time since drafting Cam Newton. With the season only eight days away from starting, here’s a recap of how Carolina’s first two picks are looking so far.
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1) Round 1 (8th overall): Christian McCaffrey, Running Back — Stanford University
In 2015, McCaffrey was one of the most dangerous players on the offensive side of the ball and was able to earn a spot as a finalist for the Heisman trophy. the next season, a majority of his relevant rushing numbers decreased apart from total touchdowns and ypc. Throughout the preseason, we’ve definently seen sparks of greatness that we witnessed in Stanford, and McCaffrey truly does seem to have transferred to the league rather efficiently.
There are already reports of his quickness throughout training camp as a few times he’s put star linebacker Luke Kuechly on skates during practice, but more importantly and perhaps my favorite quality of McCaffrey is: he runs hard. Not only does he have a deceptive power to pair with his speed but almost every time I’ve seen him hit the ground he’s always falling forward. A lot of Panthers’ fans have been excited about his versatility on offense, and maybe rightfully so, but McCaffrey fits into Carolina’s rushing game so freaking well and with Jonathan Stewart getting a bit older, the Panthers should heavily consider making sure McCaffrey is getting enough touches at running back.
2) Round 2 (40th overall): Curtis Samuel, Wide Receiver — Ohio State
Carolina’s first two picks were pretty clearly picked in order to decompress some of the pressure that’s been on quarterback Cam Newton and relieve the ridiculously high reliance on Newton to produce offense. Similarly to McCaffrey, Samuel can be flexible with his positioning and can move from the slot position where he’s most effective to the backfield.
Last season Samules was the only player with over 600 yards both rushing and receiving and was one of the fastest players in the draft with a 4.31 40 yard dash time. In his preseason debut, Samuels caught four out of six passes for 15 yards with a lingering hamstring issue tied along. So far Samuels has looked decent when he’s been healthy, and has shown rather mature route running expertise for a player as young as he is.