Panthers address pass rushing needs in NFL Draft

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The Carolina Panthers have had a strange pattern of wins and losses, alternating winning and losing seasons since 2013. They were on the sub .500 end of the pattern last season, finishing at 7-9. They were 15th in scoring at 23.5 points per game and 19th in points per game allowed at 23.9. Looking to bolster the roster to get back their winning ways, here’s a breakdown of their top five selections in the NFL Draft.

Round 1 (16th) Brian Burns (OLB) Florida State

Burns impressed immediately at Florida State, recording 9.5 sacks in a back up role as a pass rushing linebacker. A starter in 2017, Burns had 13.5 tackles for loss of yardage, to go along with 48 tackles, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. Although the team had a poor 2018 season, Burns had 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and 52 tackles. He was recognized for his efforts by being named first-team All-ACC.

Addressing one of their primary needs with this first pick, Burns displays versatility and excellent speed. Although he weighs just under 250 pounds, the Panthers won’t want Burns to put on weight due to fear of losing speed, which is his primary asset as a pass rushing outside linebacker who is capable of covering backs and tight ends. Burns should make an immediate impact in either a rotation or an every down player.

Round 2 (37th) Greg Little (OT) Ole Miss

Little has the athleticism, weight, size and quickness to handle rushers coming off the end. Blocking in running situations, Little is quick to get to the next line of defense and handle linebackers or secondary personnel. He needs work in blowing defensive linemen off the ball because he relies too much on finesse than power. Working on his strength is a must to improve his ability in this area.

The Panthers traded the 47th and 77th picks to move up to get Little. At 6’ 5” and 325 pounds the Panthers like his size and the team is confident Little will compete for time at left tackle with Taylor Morton.  It’s likely that the Panthers will get Little on the field in a starting role sooner instead of later considering selecting him in the second round.

Round 3 (100th) Will Grier (QB) West Virginia

Grier was a redshirt for Florida 2014 and went 5-0 as a starter in 2015 before being suspended for taking a performance-enhancing supplement. Before the suspension, Grier had thrown for 1,204 yards and ten touchdowns, completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. He transferred to West Virginia and was honorable All-Big 12 after throwing for nearly 3500 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a senior, Grier threw for nearly 3900 yards and 37 touchdowns.

While Cam Newton is the clear starter this season, he is coming off shoulder surgery and his contract expires after the 2020 season.  Grier provides a back up with the potential to become starter down the road. Having played under various offensive philosophies in college, Grier should be capable of learning the complex system in Carolina.

Round 4 (115th) Christian Miller (OLB) Alabama

An All-American out of high school, Miller was a redshirt in 2014. He appeared in 12 games the following season and had 16 tackles as a sophomore in 2016. Slated to play more as a junior in 2017, Miller missed ten games due to injury and made only six tackles in four games. Although starting only four games as a senior, Miller had 8.5 sacks and 36 tackles.

Miller is a speed rusher, who are 6’ 3” and just under 250 pounds, could play on the end or outside linebacker. He doesn’t have the size to be a power rusher, but should be able to utilize his quickness to get outside on offensive tackles. It’s clear after ranking near the bottom of the league in sacks last year that the Panthers want speed rushers with this selection along with the first round choice of Brian Burns.

Round 5 (154th) Jordan Scarlett (RB) Florida

Scarlett has had some off field issues such as misdemeanor arrest for possession of marijuana during his freshman year and credit card fraud scandal in 2017. As for his on field performance, Scarlett has been quite good, rushing for 776 yards and nearly six yards per carry last season. His best season was in 2016, rushing for 889 yards and six touchdowns.

Having run the 40-yard dash in just under 4.5 seconds, Scarlett has good speed, but reports are not favorable for his receiving skills and caught only ten for 84 yards last season. The idea behind the selection is to give Christian McCaffrey a sound back up and give him some plays off.  If Scarlett can stay out of trouble, he should be a solid back up this season.

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