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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Draft Day 2: Shock and Value

A few lost updates have to be re-added, sorry, which will explain the backdating

Second day for Carolina's 2008 Draft started bright and early, with the third pick in the round: with the draft starting at 10, and the third round being on Sunday, the Panthers had a prime seat with the 67 and 73 picks. With a back and OT in hand, the team looked poised to take a pair of defensive players, and did, but hardly anyone saw these two picks coming.

Charles Godfrey, a CB from Iowa, and Dan Connor, LB from PSU.

After the initial shock, Godfrey makes a lot of sense. Instead of corner, of course, he's a compact but fierce football player, who'll fit in form of a free safety. For the first time since 2000, we've acquired an athletic, rangy, cover safety, and it will pay dividends. He's also a dynamite special teamer, and reminds many of Mike Minter (regardless of his choice for picking #30, being only the third player to wear the number - locker room legends Minter and Howard Griffith being the other two). Godfrey was, by many accounts, the best player left after the 2nd finished.

Connor, on the other hand, is harder to resolve. The Panthers have four starting LBs for three spots, and have game-tested backups to fill two more spots; their longsnapper takes a 7th, and they have a total of four special teamers that could take up two more. And then Connor. Connor may replace James Anderson on the active roster, but for a 3rd round pick, the hope was to find a guy at a weakness and get him to start. At best, Connor is a few catastrophies or a few years away from starting in a LB corps that's both young and talented (and under contract). Another fine special teamer, Connor will undoubtedly help out there for 2008, and will allow them to dump veteran depth in 2009, but it's hard to see them dropping Landon Johnson to start him. Connor will start out wearing #44.

The hardest part about the Connor pick was seeing DE Chris Ellis fall out between the 67 pick and 73, where Connor was taken. Ellis was the last end that could realistically help the Panthers' pass rush.

Fast forwarding to the 5th, they took Louisville's Gary Barnidge (issued jersey 82) over some falling defensive prospects. At 6'5, 250, Barnidge is the tallest of our TEs, and has very good body control in reaching for passes outside his body (essentially, he's the antithesis of Drew Carter as a receiver) and excels as a pass catcher. He could be more athletic, and while he's a good wall off blocker, he's not the punishing player that some envisioned a TE pick to be. The team now fields 3 very good young TEs, none of which cost more than a 5th round pick. Barnidge was issued #82.

In the sixth, the Panthers finally grabbed a defensive lineman, Nick Hayden, DT from Wisconsin. A 6'4, 292 one gap style DT, Hayden listed in the top 5 in the weight training portion of the combine with 34 reps of 225 in the bench press; Hayden has a quick first step, is a tough, hard working DT, and fights in the trenches. However, at his strength and size, he won't ever support much more weight, and he's limited in his athleticism (which will simply limit his pass rush). Hayden was issued #78.

The seventh found them with three picks for three projects: Hilee Taylor, DE/LB from UNC, Geoff Schwartz, OL from Oregon, and Mackenzy Bernardeau from Bentley. Taylor (6'3, 240) was a college rush end that lacks the size and strength to play in the pros at DE, but will possibly be used as a rush specialist; he wears 66. Schwartz (6'6, 340), rated by some as a top 120 pick, is a strong, huge OT that needs technique work and lacks athleticism, but may be good enough to back up Jeff Otah in a year; he wears 74. Bernardeau (6'4, 308) is the smallest OL picked up by Carolina this year (each lineman before that weighed at least 325), and played for tiny Bentley College in Massachusetts. He was found at the Boston College Pro-day, where he worked out for Panthers' brass.

From a value standpoint, excellent. They got good football players in good spots, football players who have versatility, work ethic, and intelligence. John Fox Guys.

They failed to address the DL fast enough, but in most cases (as with FS last year), the right one wasn't available at the right time. The Harvey pick testified to that, and certainly Otah and Stewart will help the team a lot more than a reach for Phillip Merling would. Other than that, they did exactly what they needed to do (though trading off a first round pick probably wasn't the initial goal). They added talent, speed, strength, and smarts to a team that was aging.
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