Reviewing Ron Rivera’s draft history on Days 2 and 3
2018 NFL Draft
The Panthers had some key holes to fill once again at receiver and in the secondary because of the bust of Kelvin Benjamin and the void left behind by Norman’s departure. They were able to do that in 2018 and find some quality contributors.
Round 2, Pick 55: CB Donte Jackson, LSU. This continues with the recent theme of the Panthers adding athletes to their team. Jackson blazed a fast 40 during the combine when he came out and was viewed as a great speed corner. He was an ideal complement to Bradberry and has already logged seven interceptions in just 26 NFL games. He’s still developing, but his speed gives him the unique ability to be a top playmaker. If his tackling can improve, he may be a true No. 1 corner. And either way, he’s a good outside starter.
Round 3, Pick 85: DB Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee. This was the pick that the Panthers acquired when they traded Benjamin. Gaulden didn’t last long with the team. He played in 24 games over two seasons but was waived midway through the 2019 season and landed with the Giants. Gaulden had 20 tackles and a pass defense with the Panthers but struggled to earn playing time on defense (just 161 total snaps over the course of his career).
Round 4, Pick 101: TE Ian Thomas, Indiana. Thomas has largely been stuck behind Greg Olsen to date, but when he filled in at times that Olsen was injured, he showed off his athletic upside. Thomas has caught 52 passes for 469 yards and three touchdowns during his career. He should have a chance to start in 2020 and he should be a good target for Teddy Bridgewater in his first year with the team.
Round 4, Pick 136: LB/EDGE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss. Haynes played sparingly in all facets as a rookie but played just over 19 percent of the snaps last year as a rotational edge rusher. He made 12 tackles and logged a sack so if he can improve on that performance, perhaps he’ll be a quality backup.
Round 5, Pick 161: LB Jermaine Carter Jr., Maryland. Carter has been productive with the Panthers, playing in all 32 games and making six starts with the squad. He has logged 44 tackles and 0.5 sacks in those contests and looks like a solid depth player at the very least. He may push free-agent acquisition, Tahir Whitehead, for a starting job in 2020 if the Panthers don’t add a linebacker early in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Round 7, Pick 234: LB Andre Smith, North Carolina. The Panthers loaded up on linebackers in this draft. Smith has been a special teams player mostly but suited up for all 16 of the Panthers games in 2019. He should have a chance to make the roster as a backup this year.
Round 7, Pick 242: DT Kendrick Norton, Miami. Norton spent his first NFL season on the Panthers practice squad before the Miami Dolphins swooped in and signed him to their active roster. Unfortunately, Norton’s career came to a tragic end after a 2019 car accident that caused his left arm to be amputated.
Overall: It’s too early to judge this draft class in its entirety, but Jackson looks like a good starter, and both Thomas and Carter have upside. In a couple of years, we’ll have a better idea here, but at the very least, a couple good players should come out of this class. Yet another solid weekend haul for Rivera.