After an exciting second day for the Carolina Panthers in the 2010 NFL Draft, of which many deemed "excellent" while others declared it "very controversial", it was on to the third and final day.
Despite not having a first round pick, Carolina managed to pick up Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen with the 48th overall pick in one of the biggest surprises of the entire draft. They then selected LSU WR Brandon LaFell with the 78th overall selection and traded a 2011 second rounder to New England to draft Appalachian State multi-position performer Armanti Edwards.
You can read my recap of rounds two and three at this link: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/383748-carolina-panthers-draft-day-recap-rounds-two-three
On the other hand, despite picking up three solid offensive talents, Carolina still had plenty of needs left on defense going into the last four rounds on Saturday. With seven selections remaining, including four in the sixth round, the Panthers had plenty of time to find perfect fits and they did just that.
The Panthers management stuck to their long-time strategy that "...has always been to draft the best player available and not necessarily [to select a player based] on need [only]," as Reggie Byrum pointed out in another Panthers draft-related article.
Although Carolina made sure to address their remaining defensive requirements, they also went with a few more unexpected selections that probably fit the philosophy above far more than the strategy of simply going after positions that they need more depth.
However, that certainly wasn't the case with their first pick of the day. With the 124th overall selection that they acquired from the Cardinals through the Jets, they drafted Eric Norwood, the 6'1", 245-lb linebacker from South Carolina (pictured above).
Norwood, who seems to a be a likely candidate to fill in for departed Na'il Diggs, was a standout pass rusher with the Gamecocks over the past three seasons. For the Panthers, who have been lacking a primary attacking linebacker, Norwood may end up being a very smart decision for a middle-round pick.
After a blank fifth round, the Panthers really got back into the mix of things in the sixth, kicking it off with the sixth pick of the round (175th overall), traded to them from Oakland. With this choice, injury-prone but potential-filled defensive end Greg Hardy found out his next home would be in Carolina.
Hardy, who's college career has been on a downslope since an explosive sophomore year, was a primary pass rusher with Ole Miss. He played in only a few games last season for the Rebels, but the Panthers are taking a relatively low-risk chance on gambling on his future.
Following Hardy's selection, Carolina was back "on the clock" with the 29th pick of the sixth round, originally the Jets, and decided on Baylor wide receiver David Gettis. Despite playing on a team that was never better than 4-8 during his time there, he recorded 52 receptions for 675 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season. Last year's accomplishments as a senior were just icing on the cake for Gettis, who throughout his collegiate career earned over 1,500 yards.
Gettis was also used as a kick returner with Baylor, mostly in his sophomore year, and could have the potential to compete for that job during training camp.
Just four picks later, the Panthers returned to the draft board with their first of three "compensatory selections," and chose Texas A&M special teams specialist/defensive back Jordan Pugh. Pugh, who will probably be used on kickoff and punt coverage as well as an athletic secondary player, may have a minor size issue, but is not much of a risk for a late sixth-round pick.
The Panthers went back to the offensive side of things, selecting accomplished but unstable Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike with the 204th overall selection.
This was the first major glimpse of the Panthers scheme to draft the best player available instead of who fit their needs best. Although it was shocking that Pike fell so far, the Panthers already had Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, Jim Cantwell and possibly Armanti Edwards at the position, and all four are younger than 25. However, it seems, Pike may have just been too talented to pass up.
Last season with the Bearcats, Pike was excellent. He completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 2,520 yards, 29 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Pike also led Cincinnati to a BCS bowl game, going 10-0 as a starter, and completed an average of 21 passes for over 250 yards per game.
At last, Carolina finally capped off their draft, drafting two small defensive backs in the seventh round. RJ Stanford, 5'11" out of Utah (the 223rd overall pick) and 5'9" Robert McClain out of UConn (the 249th overall selection).
Stanford's great showing at pro day earned himself a pick late in the draft, and McClain's coverage is becoming something hard to find in lower-tier NFL linebackers. Although both likely aren't going to make an immediate impact, they certainly fit the Panthers needs and aren't going to end up wasting much if they turn out to be no-shows.
All in all, I think the Panthers did fairly well. While they may receive criticism for excess at QB, none of whom are quite superstars yet, the opportunity of trading these prospects away later in the summer is still enticing and available. They addressed their needs at linebacker, wide receiver and defensive line, and may have found a potential return specialist.
With training camp awaiting, Carolina is still definitely going to need find a few available players in the free agent market, but they did the best they could this week.
I firmly believe that.
Carolina Panthers Overall Draft Grade: A-
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the Carolina Hurricanes, and also diligently follows several other Carolina sports teams as well, like the Panthers. In his 20 months so far with the site, he has written over 185 articles and received over 125,000 total reads.
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