2011 NFL Draft Grades | Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are starting over. John Fox is out, Ron Rivera is in, and suddenly the Jimmy Clausen era is no more.
Carolina knew it had a lot on its plate coming into the 2011 NFL Draft, as their offense was the worst in the league, and their defense was either inconsistent or terrible in far too many contests.
With a new regime and no real direction, step one for the Panthers this year had to be getting the franchise a new identity. Let’s see if they accomplished that feat:
Round 1 (Pick 1) - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton has the size, arm, and athleticism to be something special at the quarterback situation. On top of that, he’s an instant face of the franchise, and can’t be any worse than what Jimmy Clausen brought to the table in 2010. The fact that he’s raw hurts the value of this pick, but it was still one the Panthers had to make.
Round 3 (Pick 65) – Terrell McClain, DL, South Florida
I love the value with a big, physical defensive lineman in the third round. McClain has the size and strength to compete for a major spot in the rotation from day one. He has some versatility, too, so he can be thrown all over the line.
Round 3 (Pick 97) - Sione Fua, DT, Stanford
Another great defensive line selection. The Panthers have been stripped of impact players on the line, so adding their second solid big man to do the dirty work is a great move. Fua is a beast inside, and could start right away at defensive tackle.
Round 4 (Pick 98) - Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia
Hogan could stand to bulk up and improve his toughness, but he has the speed and skills necessary to develop into a solid corner. He may not start right away, but he should prove to be useful in nickel and dime packages immediately.
Round 5 (Pick 132) – Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii
Steve Smith has one foot out the door and Carolina doesn’t have much talent at receiver, so this is either a depth add or a pet project pick. Pilares has tons of potential, so it’ll be interesting to see just what kind of role he’s assigned in the early going.
Round 6 (Pick 166) - Lawrence Wilson, OLB, UConn
Carolina can clearly stand to improve in a lot of areas on both sides of the ball, and linebacker is certainly one of them. They didn’t likely get a first-year starter here in Wilson, but he’ll be able to make an impact on special teams and should be counted on for some rotation work.
Round 6 (Pick 203) – Zachary Williams, OL, Washington State
Williams is a strong, versatile offensive lineman who can really play nasty at times, while his mixture of inconsistency and potential is troubling. They got him where he should have been, but if this guy puts it together he could easily develop into a starter on Carolina’s line. A very solid depth add, regardless.
Round 7 (Pick 244) - Lee Ziemba, T, Auburn
Carolina rounds out a reasonably solid draft with another great depth add, giving their offensive line some more talent work work with. Ziemba is a bit of a project, but has the perfect combination of size, strength, and understanding of his role. He could easily work his way into a starting gig in a few years. Nice project pick and depth add to end the draft for the Panthers.
Carolina made several selections that added great depth to certain areas, but only their first pick really stood out in this draft. Whether Cam Newton can grow into the player people think he can will ultimately make or break this draft, while the balanced selections, improving the depth of the defensive and offensive line, certainly can’t hurt.
Overall Grade: B