When the Carolina Panthers concluded their 2013 draft, experts, analysts and writers alike all presented their personal assessments of the Panthers' selections and graded them accordingly. While some graded Carolina and the rest of the NFL by the overall strength of this year's draft class, some made their grades on a round-by-round basis.
Bleacher Report covered the Panthers and the rest of the league over the past three days, making grades based on each round, and some writers even provided a final overall grade.
How did the Carolina Panthers' draft measure up this year?
It wasn't the flashiest class, as their first two picks shored up a defensive weakness the team had been dealing with for a couple of seasons. Dave Gettleman presented his business model for success and stuck to his guns, giving the Panthers some big bodies to fight in the trenches.
While the first two picks of Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short were received with applause, the last three raised a lot of concerns, and some were left questioning the motives behind Gettleman and Ron Rivera's decision-making.
The readers of this site know where the Featured Columnists for the Panthers stand on their grades, but how does the rest of the sports media feel about Carolina's 2013 draft class? The following slides are a collection of reviews and grades other writers and analysts have made about the Panthers' draft.
It seems only natural to begin with the local newspaper of the Carolina Panthers. While most would expect a draft grade from Joe Person, the Charlotte Observer's sports writer, the draft grade presented by the newspaper comes from Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Williams' Carolina Draft Grade: C
The reasoning behind Ms. Williams' grade stems from a lack of knowledge about the Panthers' biggest needs. Williams outlines needs at right tackle, safety and cornerback as the needs the Panthers have but failed to address. What is missing, however, is that Carolina was in desperate need at defensive tackle.
Per Ms. Williams:
The Panthers went into the draft with RT, CB and S as their top needs. They filled none of them.
While there can be a slight agreement with that statement, the truth is the Panthers did address a top need. Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short will be mainstays in Carolina for years to come.
As for the tackle position, it is understandable to suggest the Panthers needed help there, with age beginning to come into play for Jordan Gross and the struggles of Byron Bell. Dave Gettleman did go out and get a big guard, though, in the form of Edmund Kugbila. Carolina had needs on the offensive line in general, and Gettleman decided to focus on the interior.
It makes sense. Why worry about adding to an overstocked secondary when the Panthers' front seven can generate an excellent pass rush? Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman should prove to be efficient in coverage, and the only real concern is safety Haruki Nakamura, who will be challenged in training camp by Colin Jones, an offseason free-agent acquisition.
Late-round success or late-round flame out? Kenjon Barner has left Panthers fans with many questions.
The Carolina Panthers received a relatively high grade by CBSSports.com upon conclusion of the draft. Rob Rang offered his evaluation of the Panthers' draft class and went as far as comparing this year's first-round selection with Carolina's first pick a year ago.
The Panthers erased their biggest need with a "Star" who fell into their lap. Like Luke Kuechly a year ago, Lotulelei will prove an immediate difference-maker.
What needs to be taken from this statement is that the Panthers will be exceptionally strong up front. Rang understands this, as the key to stopping any offense is to win the battle at the line and apply constant pressure to the opposing backfield.
Rang's Carolina Draft Grade: B
On an interesting note, Rang suggests the selection of Kawann Short will deliver better productivity than Lotulelei as the talent surrounding him could elevate his game.
...Kawann Short, a natural playmaker who fell to the second round only because of questons about his motor. Surrounded by this much talent, however, he could prove more productive than Lotulelei...
Rang notices what many have failed to notice about Carolina's last three picks—the role they will play in the long run. A.J. Klein and Kenjon Barner may appear to be unnecessary selections, but both will factor into the Panthers' long-term plans after this season is over.
Like most analysts and writers, Rang projects Barner to compete for a special teams spot, and he could see some action as a return man this year. If Barner can bring the level of success he had on special teams while at Oregon, people will reflect on this pick as being a brilliant late-round selection for Dave Gettlman's debut.
The same can be said about Klein's selection, as drafting a linebacker didn't seem to fit into the Panthers' needs. However, Rang has recognized the level of talent the young man possesses, and Klein could find himself an integral part of the defense entering the 2014 season; which may see the departure of Jon Beason.
A lot of football news comes from the website Rotoworld.com, and like everyone else around the sports media world, they have reviewed the Panthers' draft picks and graded them accordingly. Evan Silva presented his analysis on how well Carolina did during draft weekend.
Silva's Carolina Draft Grade: C+
As with everyone else, Silva acknowledges the brilliant pick of Star Lotulelei and the motor of Kawann Short. If both of these guys perform at the level they are expected to, with the efforts of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy on the outside, the Panthers defensive line will be dominant.
While some view A.J. Klein as Jon Beason's eventual replacement, Silva believes the Iowa State product was brought in just in case Beason finds himself sidelined yet again.
Klein is solid insurance should Jon Beason's numerous surgical recoveries experience a setback.
That kind of news may be a tough pill to swallow for many Carolina fans, but the truth is Beason is not the same player he once was in terms of health. If the Panthers are to be successful defensively, they are going to need solid production from their linebackers; even if that means parting ways with some of the team's more popular players.
Shifting the focus to the offensive side of the ball, Silva predicts that Kenjon Barner will serve as a catalyst for a personnel decision involving DeAngelo Williams.
I think it's fair to wonder if the Barner pick foreshadows a DeAngelo Williams transaction. At the very least, it's a confirmation 2013 will be Williams' final season in Carolina.
Assuming the Panthers will need to dump a considerable amount in player salary in order to compete in the free-agent market, this would make sense. Barner is an inexpensive player who can earn his place at the table. Starting at special teams isn't a bad thing, as it worked out well for Steve Smith.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports was the only network other than the NFL Network to follow the NFL draft from start to finish. ESPN.com has several writers who cover different teams based on division, and for the Carolina Panthers, that man is Pat Yasinskas.
Yasinskas didn't provide a clear cut grade but did offer his opinion about the Panthers draft class along with the rest of the NFC South. In fact, he really limited his assessment of Carolina's draft to Star Lotulelei calling him the best defensive tackle taken in the draft.
He goes as far as saying this about the future of the Panthers defense:
Put Lotulelei in a rotation with Short and Dwan Edwards, and defensive tackle suddenly becomes a strength for Carolina. With the infusion of talent in the middle of the line, a Carolina front seven that’s good everywhere else could become a real force.
Anyone who has followed Carolina football knows this statement to be true. While we can't get excited about preseason hype, it's safe to say the Carolina defensive front will be greatly improved and should progress up instead of regressing down.
Pairing Lotulelei with second-round pick Kawann Short and rotating him with Dwan Edwards will allow the Panthers to be fresh on the line, and with the improving performance of defensive end Frank Alexander, Carolina won't be as tired late in the game, when several leads were lost last season.
While I have worked on keeping the readers of Bleacher Report up to date on the Carolina Panthers' draft picks and offering a personal analysis, the site's Lead Writers have been doing the same for the all 32 NFL teams. It's only right to provide the insight of another Bleacher Report writer who submitted a grade for the Panthers.
Michael Schottey broke down his grades based on individual round along with the team's need, the pick value and the fit. Needless to say, his assessment of Carolina's first pick is in line with the majority.
Star Lotulelei will probably go down as a steal for the Panthers not just in the first round, but perhaps the entire draft. It's unbelievable that just a few short months ago, he was viewed as a top-five pick, and yet he slipped drastically due to concerns over his health.
Schottey sums up the pick with his last sentence of his evaluation:
He'll make Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Luke Kuechly very happy.
The only reason his grade is not higher is because at this point, the team need is not as glaring as it was when the draft opened. However, the value and fit warranted high marks, and for a team that struggled on the interior of the defensive line the past couple of seasons, the selection of Kawann Short was a good one.
Schottey doesn't ignore some fan displeasure, but he points to the upside of the selection:
...this is a great pickup and a fantastic fit next to Star Lotulelei. Luke Kuechly is a happy man this evening as he'll have room to maneuver with two stud tackles in front of him...
Calling the Panthers' selection of offensive guard Edmund Kugbila a reach is a fair statement. I had similar sentiments when the pick was made, as the argument was made about drafting a higher-rated offensive lineman or a defensive back. Schottey had this to say about Kugbila being drafted in the fourth:
This is a big reach, but he's got great upside as a stout run-blocker and fits what the Panthers wants to do with so many high-paid running backs.
Let's hope the coaching staff knew what they were doing, because if this guy doesn't produce or allow for the running game to assert itself, this pick will be questioned for years to come.
The more and more I look at this pick, the more I like it. Schottey and I seem to agree on this one even though at first it appeared to be an unnecessary selection.
Schottey looks at this pick as a good one even though the Panthers have more than enough running backs on their roster. Like Evan Silva and a few others, he thinks that by drafting Kenjon Barner, the Panthers will be setting the stage for dropping one of their two high-priced running backs and freeing up significant cap room.
This pick is still one I'm on the fence about, but I do recognize the potential value here if the Oregon product can make headlines in the NFL. However, the true worth of this pick probably won't be revealed until the end of the 2014 season—which could see Barner in a more prominent role within the offense.
Bleacher Report not only graded team draft picks but also conducted a similar evaluation of each team's general manager. Bleacher Report's own Andrea Hangst, a Lead Writer for the AFC North section, offers her take on how well each general manager fared during the 2013 NFL draft.
So how did she grade Carolina GM Dave Gettleman?
Interestingly enough, she awarded Gettleman with exceptionally high marks, citing the team's upgrade at defensive tackle and potential value in Kenjon Barner.
Hangst's Grade of David Gettleman: A
All of Carolina's picks have greater upside than bust potential.
That is a fair statement because if all goes well and each one of these picks plays at his potential or better, Gettleman will be viewed as a genius by Carolina fans.
What would a collection of draft-class report cards be if the fans weren't able to have their say? Since ESPN features the mecca of polls with SportsNation, this slideshow wouldn't be complete without providing you, the reader, with the results of your peers and fellow fans.
The results were interesting, to say the least. Out of over 5,400 votes, 31 percent voted the Carolina Panthers as having the best draft among their NFC South rivals. That is a five-percent increase over second-place Atlanta.
As far as the individual team grade goes, fans voted as such for the Carolina Panthers:
A: 36 percent
B: 34 percent
C: 16 percent
D: 4 percent
F: 10 percent
It should be noted that of the four NFC South teams, Carolina was the only one who led the division in the number of votes resulting with an "A."
Perhaps the Panthers' draft wasn't as bad as some initially thought it was. There have been more favorable reviews than negative ones, and if the only detrimental comment about a draft pick is that he is "a reach," then the fans should feel a little better about the choices.
There is a long way to go before the true value will be revealed, but for now, Carolina fans can rest easy because it seems as though the right moves were made—even if a defensive back or wide receiver wasn't taken.
***Note: Poll results as of April 28th, 2013.