Division: NFC South
2019 Record: 6-10, 3rd in the NFCS
In keeping with the teams vaunted tradition of inconsistency, 2019 saw us dramatically improve over our 2018 record. Where the previous season was a 3-13 slog in which everything that possibly could go wrong did, 2019 was an inspiring bounceback in which the team had twice as much success as the season before.
Head Coach – After a consecutive losing season, Ron Rivera was let go and relatively unknown Jesse Hinson took over the team just before the free agency began. Hinson looks to maximize the opportunity for the talent that is already on the roster and add flexibility where the wasn’t before. He began by releasing a slew of Panthers who have seemed to lose a step or just no longer fit the new scheme. Hinson is expected to deploy a “Spread Power Run” offense and a hybrid defense.
Terrelle Pryor Sr, QB/WR - The experiment of moving Terrelle Pryor back to the position he came into the league as only lasted 1 season. Let’s face it, the only player in the league that is even remotely close to Cam Newton in terms of athleticism, size, and skill set is Terrelle Pryor. However, it’s obvious why Terrelle Pyror converted to WR rather than finishing his career as a quarterback.
Vontae Davis, FS – The veteran cornerback-turned-safety just didn’t cut it in Carolina as he was constantly beat on obvious passing downs.
Carl Nassib, DE – Nassib was a late season signing and was projected to be the favorite to start opposite of Porter Gustin going into the offseason, but Nassib never saw the field and demanded a hefty price tag the Panthers weren’t too excited about.
Tavon Wilson, SS – Wilson actually started all 16 games for the Panthers in 2019… who knew?
Mark Barron, MLB – Mark Barron filled in nicely as a sub linebacker on passing downs. It was a surprise move not to resign Barron, but it is completely understandable as the Panthers wanted to get younger at the position.
Vernon Butler Jr, DT – One of the biggest busts of all-time for the Carolina Panthers. Butler never saw the field during the 2019 regular season after the Panthers spent another first round draft pick on a DT in Ed Oliver. Butler currently remains an unsigned free agent.
Emmanuel Ogbah, EDGE – Ogbah was the first major defensive end free agent signing for the Panthers since signing Reggie White back in 2000. The former Cleveland Brown projects to be starter at defensive end in the 4-3 alignment and has the speed and skill to start at the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 sets.
Bud Dupree, DE/LB – Dupree was rarely used in Pittsburgh, but the Panthers organization was excited to land such a talented defensive player this offseason, some might say as much as Dupree was overpaid. Hinson believes Dupree, like Ogbah, gives them unique flexibility on defense.
Miles Killebrew, SS – The Panthers were excited to land another flexible defensive prospect who was barely used on his former team in Miles Killebrew. Killebrew, always regarded as more of hybrid safety linebacker, will start at strong safety for the Panthers and even play a bit of sub linebacker at times.
Matt Paradis, C – After losing Trai Turner and Daryl Williams for multiple weeks at the start of the regular season in 2019, the Panthers were down to the likes of Wesley Johnson and Max Garcia as their best starters. It’s no mystery why the Panthers handed the 30 year old Matt Paradis a 22m contract this past offseason.
Bryan Bulaga, RG – The Panthers signed 10-year vet Bryan Bulaga as depth for their very destitute offensive line. He will be first in line to fill in any case as he offers a well-rounded set of blocking skills.
Darron Lee, MLB – Another big defensive signing for the Panthers was former Jet, Darron Lee. Lee, known for his quickness and athleticism will replace Mark Barron immediately. One interesting fact: Darron Lee ran a faster 40 at the 2016 combine than now teammate Braxton Miller.
Overall, the Panthers made some very constructive moves this offseason as it is clear they have specific goals in mind – to rebuild the offensive line and get flexible on defense.
Like our previous draft, this one represents many significant identity changes, though mostly on the offensive side of the ball rather than the defensive one. And like the last draft, it features a large number of upside players drafted at pretty reasonable prices. So let’s get into it.
David Edwards, LT - Rd 1 – The degree to which the Panthers needed offensive line help coming out of the 2019 season cannot be overstated. Edwards is a true franchise left tackle. He’s huge, he’s strong, and excellent run and pass blocker.
Austin Mack, WR - Rd 2 – With the wide receiver room already packed with more than enough speedy, deep threats the Panthers seemed to go with the best player available in the second round. Austin Mack joins the Panthers promising wide receiving core and projects to rotate with fellow Ohio State alumni Curtis Samuel at the slot position. Mack, who many scouts compared to Miles Austin, also has the skillset to play outside and be a threat in the red zone at 6’3.
A.J. Dillon, HB - Rd 3 – Last season, the Panthers added bruisers Latavius Murray and Patrick Laird to the offensive backfield, but neither seemed to possess the ability to convert on 3rd and short. Dillon was predicted by many to go in the first round of the draft but fell to the 3rd round because of his suspected less than ideal speed. Where he lacks in speed, he makes up for in size and strength. Expect the words “Dillon” and “First Down” to be said a lot in the same sentence when watching Carolina games this season.
Travis Homer, HB - Rd 4 – In a class deep at the running back position, the Panthers just couldn’t pass up former Miami running back Travis Homer in the 4th round. Because it was such a deep class, Homer was another running back that was available later than expected. With his blazing speed and pass catching abilities, he expects to play ahead of Keith Marshall as the change of pace back for the Panthers.
Jeffrey Okudah, DB - Rd 5 – Scouts weren’t sure if Okudah would play in the league as a corner or safety. Hinson mentioned Okudah getting reps at both positions in the team’s post draft presser.
Sewo Olonilua, HB - Rd 5 – Olonilua was a surprise pick as the Panthers had already spent 2 other picks on running back in this draft. Many see Olonilua as a development pick, but at 6’3 and 237lbs, he may become a fan favorite sooner rather than later. However, in an already crowded backfield, if he makes it the 53 man roster it will because of his effort on special teams.
Brett Tonz, LG – Rd 5 – Needing all the offensive line help they can get, the Panthers selected another “hog molly” with their 3rd pick of the 5th round. Tonz will most likely play in a reserve role early on.
Navon Mosley, FS - Rd 6 – Mosley is more of a coverage safety than one that can help in the run game. Expect him to play some corner as well.
Christian Rector, DE - Rd 7 – With their last pick in this draft, the Panthers added a clone of former Panther Mario Addison. He is expected to spell Gustin and Ogbah in 4-3 sets.