With their third round pick, No. 93 overall, the Carolina Panthers selected defensive lineman Corvey Irvin out of SEC powerhouse Georgia.
The Panthers likely drafted the 6'3", 301-pound Irvin to fill their need for depth at tackle. Irvin, pictured in the article photo, has second-round strength, proved by his 24 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench-press at the NFL Combine.
The Laney High School alumnus also possesses above-average balance and lower-body strength. In the 20-yard shuttle, a test of an athlete's side-to-side quickness and acceleration in small areas, Irvin had the fourth-best time of any tackle in the draft.
Irvin’s NFL readiness could be in question however, as the only two notable defensive linemen Georgia has produced in the past ten years are New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour and Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.
The Panthers used their first fourth round selection, No. 111 overall, acquired in a trade with the 49ers, to take RB Mike Goodson out of Texas A&M.
Goodson could be a real steal. He has superb speed, tremendous lower-body strength, outstanding quickness, and explosion off the snap. He sounds like a Brian Westbrook, and with the star running duo of “Double Trouble”—DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart—mentoring him, who knows how good Goodson could become.
Texas A&M hasn’t had many running backs drafted into the NFL in the last ten years. The only two are Goodson and Dante Hall, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and then the St. Louis Rams from 2000-2008. He is now an unrestricted free agent after the Rams did not re-sign him following the 2008 season.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta was the Panthers’ second fourth round pick, drafted at No. 128 overall. Considered the best fullback in the draft, Carolina drafted Fiammetta to learn his position within the context of the Panthers’ offense under veteran Brad Hoover so he can take over the starting job when Hoover, 33, retires.
Fiammetta is famous for his lead blocking, which makes him an ideal fit for the Panthers' run-first offense. He's incredibly strong (he lifted 30 repetitions of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine, the best workout of any back in the draft). At just six feet tall, he has a low center-of-gravity which will allow him to keep his balance more easily.
In addition, the former Syracuse Orangeman runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, which is as fast as some of the better running backs in the draft. Fiammetta also has the necessary lower-body strength, and extra explosion to be a prominent NFL fullback one day.
The only downside to Fiammetta is that Syracuse generally doesn’t turn out NFL-ready running backs and fullbacks. Only one guy who could run or block in the NFL that has come out of Syracuse in recent memory, is Joe Morris, a former New York Giant.
Morris was drafted by the Giants in 1982 and surpassed 1,000 yards three times in his career. His best season was 1986, in which he compiled 1,500 yards rushing.
Even though he plays a less-publicized position, Fiammetta was a real steal.
The Panthers drafted offensive tackle Duke Robinson late in the fifth round. Robinson, a behemoth at 6’5” and 329 pounds, has the size to be the kind of interior offensive lineman the Panthers covet. The versatile former Oklahoma Sooner has strong hands that allow him to keep outside rushers in front of him. Robinson is skilled at disengaging from blocks as well as picking up opposing pass rushers and run stoppers.
Plus, his experience playing left guard in college should provide extra, low-cost depth—a precious commodity for the Panthers this offseason with several reserve offensive linemen jumping ship for better jobs with other teams and almost no salary cap space because of Julius Peppers' monstrous contract.
Robinson is sluggish on his feet however, which could make him struggle against quick, fleet outside rushers. In addition, his alma mater, Oklahoma, has done a poor job turning out serviceable NFL offensive tackles.
Just two decent tackles have been drafted out of Oklahoma in the past ten years—Jammal Brown, a starter for the New Orleans Saints, and Stockar McDougle, a guy whose playing career spanned eight seasons with the Lions, Dolphins, and Jaguars.
It’s good to see the Panthers building on their formula for future success by bringing in Robinson, even though he's raw at the moment.
With their final pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Panthers selected cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, whose acceptable speed and vertical leaping ability should help him make up for his lack of size, 5’9” and 182 pounds. The former South Carolina Gamecock also possesses nice strength.
Munnerlyn has decent speed on the outside pass rush, and is a solid special-teams player. His return skills are excellent, and he even blocked a kick or two in his college career. Munnerlyn’s downside: below-average explosion and poor lateral quickness.
A solid line of recent South Carolina cornerbacks proceeds Munnerlyn, including such players as Houston’s Dunta Robinson and Philadelphia’s Sheldon Brown. Munnerlyn looks like a quality backup to either Chris Gamble or Richard Marshall.
There isn’t much to dislike about the Panthers’ 2009 draft class. Carolina’s player scouting department did a tremendous job of finding quality talent.