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Panthers Were Surprised Derrick Brown Fell Into Their Lap

Carolina is getting potentially the second best defensive player in the draft

Thursday night, the Carolina Panthers selected Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown instead of choosing versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons of Clemson. Much of the Panthers fanbase was befuddled with the decision to choose Brown over Simmons, but at the end of the day, the Panthers saw Brown as their guy. Neither GM Marty Hurney or head coach Matt Rhule figured that Brown would still be on the board by the time Carolina was on the clock. Hurney explained the team's decision to take Brown on a media conference call.

“My thing is, you know where we had them very close together obviously but, I think we both believe that you start building from the front and I think Derrick not only helps guys like KK [Kawann Short] and the rest of the line, he helps Shaq [Thompson], he helps the linebackers. He's a big powerful player who's got a really good first step, we think he’s a three down player. Obviously he helps you against run, but he really gets push up the middle. We met with him several times. Honestly, every time we met with him after the season, I really didn't think he would make it to seven."

Head coach Matt Rhule loves the fit and seems really amped up about what the defensive line is capable of doing for the 2020 season and beyond. Not only does Rhule see him making an immediate impact in stopping the run, but eventually evolving into an elite pass rusher.

“Obviously last year, we had 53 sacks, so there's some guys there. [Brian] Burns and some other guys coming back have had some production. I think what we need to do, especially now that we're getting KK [Kawann Short] healthy, is have some interior guys that can really get in the face of the quarterbacks in this league. I think he's only just beginning in his ability as a pass rusher, he's been a dominant force. I think Mike Phair coming over from the Colts will do a great job of developing him as a pass rusher. He's a guy that allows us to go to three down, four down, he can be the nose, he can be a three technique, he's even gone out and been a five technique," Rhule said.

Coming into the draft, there were several unknowns. Would the Panthers trade up? Would they stay put? Would they move down? Could there be any communication issues leading up to their No. 7 pick? The first-ever virtual draft ended up going really well according to Hurney. He discussed what the selection process was like and the moments leading up to their pick.

“[The draft] was really very much the same. Matt [Rhule] and I have probably talked about 20 times a day over the phone and conference calls over last few weeks. We're always on the same page. Philosophically, we're on the same page. We put a lot of resources in free agency in our offense and knew that coming into the draft that we wanted to have some holes to fill on defense and, as we say, he was a guy that I remember meeting with at the Senior Bowl. And when he walked out of the room, we just both shook our heads and said, 'Wow.' I don't think either one of us at that point thought that we'd have the opportunity to get him. I think that he is a really good piece to add and start building our defense. We went through all the scenarios. We talked about what players were there, who we would take, what players we would trade back for and it was just it's as smooth as it could go.” 

Due to the novel coronavirus, rookie minicamp will not be taking place, which means these young players are going to miss out on some very valuable time getting acclimated to their new organizations, getting ahead on the playbook and much more. Rhule talked about how this could impact Brown early on his development.

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“Obviously in the typical world, we would get him up here next week and in rookie minicamp and really look at his body and see the things we can do to make sure he's strong and healthy heading into the season. Because we can't do that, obviously we just have to stick to our plan, which is to do everything virtual and give him the best opportunity to learn the system. And I think that's the one thing that slows rookie players down from playing and contributing is just understanding. It's about the speed of the game, a lot of times, that's just mentally knowing what to do. But you'll have to wait until the facilities open to be able to get in here and go through all those little rehab things, stretching, all those things that we want to do.

Despite not being able to set foot in Charlotte for the unforeseeable future,  Rhule feels really comfortable with Brown's mindset, attitude, and work ethic - all of which played a major part in the team's selection. 

"One of the great things about him is that we knew how serious he was about this. And so we knew we needed to get somebody that was going to truly be a professional that was going to work really hard on their own. I texted Marty [Hurney] first thing this morning and I said, ‘Hey, I'm rewatching the bowl game’ And here's a guy that came back for a senior year. He's consensus top 10 pick. He goes to play in the bowl game (Citrus Bowl). It's not like it's not in the playoffs. He's playing against University of Minnesota and plays every snap, except for maybe a couple as a normal rotation. And there's a goal line stand where he is playing as hard as he can. And to me, that's what we need right now in this time. We need guys that are dedicated.”

Rhule is 100% right. Brown is exactly the kind of guy the Panthers need to jumpstart this rebuild. Not only from a position of need standpoint, but from a character standpoint as well. You need somebody that is going to take charge of a locker room, gain respect from his teammates and the coaching staff. Having the determination and will to want to get better is something that this team desperately needs. Brown's competitive mentality can be infectious and can help rebuild a winning attitude and culture in the Queen City.

Do you feel like Brown was the right pick for Carolina? Let us know your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below!

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