After an up and down season in which the Carolina Panthers finished 11-5 and lost to division rivals Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Game of the NFL Playoffs, Ron Rivera and company will turn to the draft to get back to the Super Bowl. The Panthers struggled protecting Cam Newton against the rush last season and will surely look to shore up their offensive line in the draft. In free agency, Carolina signed guard Jeremiah Sirles, cornerback Ross Cockrell, safety Da'Norris Searcy and wide receiver Jarius Wright. They also traded for Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith to provide Newton with a deep-threat for his big arm.
How will they use their picks in the NFL draft? We’re listing every selection below, including a grade for their first-round pick.
Here's the full list of picks the Panthers hold in the 2018 draft, which will be updated as each selection is made.
Round 1, Pick 24 (No. 24 overall)
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Andy Benoit's grade: A-
Any team that has Devin Funchess and especially Torrey Smith as projected starters obviously needs help at wide receiver. The question is, what kind of help? With last year’s second-round flex weapon Curtis Samuel plus ex-Viking Jarius Wright, there are answers in the slot. What this team needed was a weapon on the perimeter. Moore isn’t huge (6' 0", 210 pounds), but he plays large. He’s a contested catch artist whom some have described as a potentially more refined version of DeAndre Hopkins. That style should suit a strong-armed risk-taker like Cam Newton.
Scouting Report: The Big Ten’s 2017 receiver of the year despite Maryland’s constant revolving door at quarterback, Moore has the quickness and burst out of his cuts to separate underneath, as well as the long speed to take the top off a defense. He’s on the smaller side but is competitive downfield and plays bigger than his size. He could fit as a starter on the outside or in the slot, and could carve out a Golden Tate-type career in the right situation.
Round 2, Pick 23 (No. 55 overall): Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
Andy Benoit's grade: B
This defense is likely returning to its simpler 4-3 speedy zone ways under first-time coordinator Eric Washington. In that approach, the Panthers never prioritized cornerbacks, but all of their defensive backs will be free agents by 2020. Other than James Bradberry, none of those DBs are of clear-cut starting quality. Picking Jackson was out of necessity.
Round 3, Pick 21 (No. 85 overall): Rashaan Gaulden, S, Tennessee
Andy Benoit's grade: C+
Drafting corners in Rounds 2 AND 3? The Panthers needed help at this position, so it makes sense. Maybe the belief in taking front seven players over DBs was more about previous GM Dave Gettleman and less about an organizational creed.
Round 4, Pick 1 (No. 101 Overall): Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
Round 4, Pick 36 (No. 136 Overall): Marquis Haynes, DE, Mississippi
Round 5, Pick 24 (No. 161 overall): Jermaine Carter Jr., LB, Maryland
Round 7, Pick 16 (No. 234 overall): Andre Smith, LB, North Carolina
Round 7, Pick 24 (No. 242 overall): Kendrick Norton, DL, Miami (FL)