The Carolina Panthers had quite a successful NFL Draft through the first three rounds, landing talented defensive prospects to help fill out a defense with several holes, losing eight of their 11 starters from 2019. The Panthers’ draft picks through day two include defensive tackle, Derrick Brown (No. 7 overall), defensive end, Yetur Gross-Matos (No. 38 overall), and safety, Jeremy Chinn (No. 64 overall). One area of need that still remained for Carolina was the cornerback position as the team lost James Bradberry to the Giants in free agency, leaving Donte Jackson as their lone starting corner.
The Panthers used their first selection on day three of the draft to land Notre Dame cornerback, Troy Pride Jr. with their fourth-round pick (No. 113), continuing the team’s draft success in 2020. He was projected to be a third-round pick but dropped right into Carolina’s lap in the fourth round. Pride Jr. wasn’t bothered over dropping down in the draft but ultimately content on where he eventually landed.
“I didn’t drop, I fell into the right place,” Troy Pride Jr. told Panthers media Saturday.
Pride Jr. has ideal NFL corner height, weight, and athleticism, standing at 5-foot-11, weighing 193 pounds. The corner has elite speed and great instincts on the outside defending routes, with an innate ability to undercut throws as it is tough to gain vertical separation on him. Once he couples his freakish athleticism with improved ball skills, consistency in man coverage, and develops the fundamental defensive back skills, he will become a scheme-versatile cornerback.
Battling two NFL wide receivers every day in practice over the last three years at Notre Dame (Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool) properly prepared him for the NFL and to showcase his skills on the country’s biggest stage. Last season against Clemson, he only surrendered two catches for 12 yards against the Tigers, shutting down the Bengals’ No. 33 overall pick this year, Tee Higgins, in the process.
Troy Pride Jr. coupled with Donte Jackson will make of the NFL’s fastest cornerback corps. Both have track backgrounds, running track and field at LSU and Notre Dame in college, so beating the Panthers over the top will become increasingly difficult as these two young prospects continue to develop.
Pride Jr. told Panthers media shortly after being drafted that his fastest recorded 40-yard dash time was a stunning 4.28. The Notre Dame product had an off day at the combine, running just a 4.4. He explained that his remarkable speed is not the only attribute that makes him a special ‘DB’ but the gritty competitiveness that drives him to be the best player on the field.
“I’m a competitive peach,” he said. “My will to win is higher than a lot of individuals. My competitive edge is always going to keep me with any athlete that I play against and any system I play in.”
It is rare to see a two-sport athlete in college, especially a player as talented as Troy Pride Jr. After hearing him speak, it is obvious that track helped fuel his competitive desires as well as strengthen his mental toughness, making him into the intriguing prospect the Panthers couldn’t pass up.
“Track is interesting because it is just you,” Pride Jr. explained. “You’re not relying on anyone else to help you - unless you’re on a relay team. If you don’t perform well, you’re not going to do well that day. It really upped my competitive nature - running and doing football workouts - and it made me more mentally tough, fighting through adversity.”
Troy Pride Jr. will need every bit of that mental toughness as a cornerback in the NFL South as the division continues to load up on top-tier talent. Three of the league’s top seven receivers happen to play Carolina twice a year. That’s as difficult as it gets, especially for a rookie. He isn’t worried about facing elite talent and explained that it will only help improve as a player in the end.
“I’ve already envisioned myself going up against them,” Pride Jr. said. “I’m already setting myself up for that. I’ve always been working to go against the best and defend the best in that division. Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan. It’s going to be wonderful. You relish that opportunity to compete against the best.”
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