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April 28, 2013

Panthers' post-draft depth chart

With the draft done, we thought we'd take our first crack at the Panthers' two-deep.

The team won't release its official version until around the start of training camp, and it won't look exactly like this. For instance, second-year cornerback Josh Norman likely will still be behind Josh Thomas, as he was at the end of last season.

But from the way Dave Gettleman talked about Norman, it's pretty clear the Panthers eventually expect Norman to be the guy there.

Also, the Panthers need another pass-catching tight end to complement Greg Olsen. They strongly considered Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert before taking DT Star Lotulelei with the 14th pick Thursday.

Anyway, have at it:

OFFENSE

WR Steve Smith/Domenik Hixon

LT Jordan Gross/Bruce Campbell

LG Amini Silatolu/Edmund Kugbila

C Ryan Kalil/Jeff Byers

RG Geoff Hangartner/Edmund Kugbila

RT Byron Bell/Garry Williams

TE Greg Olsen/Ben Hartsock

WR Brandon LaFell/Ted Ginn

QB Cam Newton/Derek Anderson

FB Mike Tolbert/Richie Brockel

RB DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart

DEFENSE

DE Greg Hardy/Frank Alexander

DT Dwan Edwards/Kawann Short

NT Star Lotulelei/Colin Cole

DE Charles Johnson/Thomas Keiser

SLB Thomas Davis/Jordan Senn

MLB Luke Kuechly/Chase Blackburn

WLB Jon Beason/A.J. Klein

CB Drayton Florence/Captain Munnerlyn

CB Josh Norman/Josh Thomas

SS Mike Mitchell/D.J. Campbell

FS Charles Godfrey/Haruki Nakamura

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Graham Gano

P Brad Nortman

H Brad Nortman

LS J.J. Jansen

KR Ted Ginn/Kenjon Barner

PR Ted Ginn/Joe Adams

 

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2013 at 05:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

April 27, 2013

List of undrafted rookie free agents set to sign with Panthers

After their five draft picks were in the books Saturday night, the free-agent feeding frenzy began. 

The Panthers had 72 players on their roster after drafting Oregon RB Kenjon Barner, leaving them with 18 open rosters spots.

General manager Dave Gettleman said the team could wait until mid-July before filling the remaining spots. 

Twitter was abuzz Saturday night once Mr. Irrelevant was named with undrafted free agents signing with teams across the league. Below is the list of players reported to be signing with Carolina.

Gettleman showed the Panthers were committed to getting bigger in the trenches, using the first three picks on defensive and offensive linemen that totaled more than 900 pounds together. Though the team didn't bring in a wide receiver, safety, cornerback or tight end in the draft, the Panthers filled those needs in what's known as Round 8.

Perhaps the biggest name on the list is Alabama safety Robert Lester. He started in 40 of his 48 career games with the Crimson Tide, switching from free to strong safety in his junior season. 

In four years with Alabama, Lester won three national titles and tallied 14 interceptions. 

(Note: These signings were either reported by news outlets close to the player, the agent of the player or tweeted by the player himself. An official team release will likely come Monday.)

Michigan DE Craig Roh
South Carolina LB Damario Jeffery
Alabama S Robert Lester
Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron
Rice TE Taylor Cook
Louisiana Lafayette CB Melvin White
Penn State FB Michael Zordich
Jacksonville State G Tori Mobley
Sam Houston State WR Trey Diller
William & Mary DL Bryan Jean-Pierre
Wheaton OT Jesse Peterson
Georgia Tech LS Tyler Morgan
USC DE/OLB Wes Horton
Abilene Christian K Morgan Lineberry
Colorado State P Pete Kontodiakos
Wofford FB Eric Breitenstein
San Jose State WR Michael Avila (Was at Panthers training camp last season)

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2013 at 09:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

Panthers close draft by selecting RB Kenjon Barner in the sixth round

So much for not needing another running back.

With more than $40 million in guaranteed money tied up in running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers decided to take Oregon RB Kenjon Barner with their final pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

Barner rushed for 1,767 yards as a senior for the Ducks, scoring 21 touchdowns on 278 carries. 

While he made his name at Oregon as a running back, Barner was a lethal kick and punt returner. He averaged 10.12 yards per punt return and scored a touchdown as a running back, receiver, punt and kick returner. 

Who will start for Carolina at punt returner is unclear, and that's where Barner will likely compete for a spot. Last year's fourth-round pick Joe Adams started at punt returner in 2012 before two fumbles in Week 3 cost him his job. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn saw time at PR along with WR Armanti Edwards.

Barner finished with 3,825 all-purpose yards his senior season, and while Carolina seems set at kick returner with the offseason addition of Ted Ginn Jr., Barner could be his immediate understudy.

With no more selections remaining, the Panthers are done with the 2013 NFL draft. Carolina has six selections next year after trading the rights to the seventh round pick to San Francisco last season.

The Panthers can and likely will sign undrafted free agents at the conclusion of Saturday's proceedings in New York. Those signings would likely stretch into Sunday and beyond.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2013 at 04:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

Panthers take LB A.J. Klein in fifth round

The Panthers went against form with their fifth-round pick Saturday, finally taking a player who weighed less than 300 pounds.

After taking big bodies with his first three picks, Panthers GM Dave Gettleman selected Iowa State inside linebacker A.J. Klein in the fifth round with the 148th pick.

Klein was a three-time All-Big 12 selection, and shared the conference's defensive player of the year award in 2011 with current Panthers DE Frank Alexander.

Klein, who is 6-1 and 250 pounds, can play all three linebacker spots. And though he is known more for his run-stopping abilities than his coverage skills, Klein returned four of his five career interceptions for touchdowns.

Klein said he's grown accustomed to people questioning his speed, although he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds at the combine.

"I played in an open league, you could say, with the spread offenses in the Big 12. And having to play in space," Klein said in a conference call Saturday.

"I've always had people question my athletic ability, but obviously I think I put those rumors to rest. And obviously the Carolina staff and organization saw enough in me to draft me."

Klein essentially will take the place of Jason Phillips as a backup linebacker and special teams player. Phillips signed with Philadelphia as a free agent this offseason.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2013 at 02:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Panthers take D-II guard Edmund Kugbila in fourth round

With the No. 108 overall selection, the Panthers got another line pusher.

Only this time, he plays offense.

After doubling up on defensive tackles in the first two rounds, the Panthers took Valdosta State's Edmund Kugbila with the 11th pick in the fourth round. 

The 6-foot-4, 317-pound Kugbila ran a 5.13 40-time at his pro day and had 24 reps at 225 pounds. 

He's the first draft pick from Valdosta State since 1997. He was born in Ghana and moved to the United States at age 10. 

Valdosta State won the 2012 Division-II national championship in December with a 35-7 win against Winston-Salem State.

Kugbila should compete with second-year Amini Silatolu, last year's starter at left guard, on the line this offseason.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on April 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

April 26, 2013

Panthers double down with defensive tackles, take Purdue's Kawann Short

Less than one day after the Panthers took Utah DT Star Lotulelei with the No. 14 overall selection, the Carolina Panthers took another defensive tackle in the second round. 

Purdue's Kawann Short becamethe newest Panther when Carolina took him with the 44th overall pick Friday night.

Short, who started in 50 consecutive games for the Boilermakers, finished his four-year career with 19.5 sacks and was third among all active players in the NCAA FBS with 49 tackles for a loss.

“He’s the most natural pass rusher of all the defensive tackles in the draft," Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said. "He was at the top of our board. We worked him out, we brought him in, spent time with him... and we feel really good about this pick. It gives us a tremendous defensive line rotation."

Carolina now has an interior rotation of Dwan Edwards, Lotulelei, Short, Frank Kearse, Sione Fua, Colin Cole and Nate Chandler.

The Panthers do not have a third-round pick, and Gettleman said flatly the team would not be trading into the draft for another pick Friday night.

--Jonathan Jones

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2013 at 07:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

VIDEO: Joseph Person talks Star Lotulelei

Observer NFL reporter Joseph Person talks about the Carolina Panthers' first-round pick in the NFL draft, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, and his potential impact

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2013 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Panthers' pick at No. 44: Some options

The Carolina Panthers have the 12th pick of Friday's second round of the NFL draft, No. 44 overall, and after the first round we have a clearer picture of who might be available.

The top three remaining players on The Observer's Top 100 are all quarterbacks, No. 10 Geno Smith of West Virginia, No. 20 Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, and No. 22 Ryan Nassib of Syracuse. The Panthers don't need a quarterback, but Smith would be interesting as a backup to Cam Newton, given his ability to run the read-option and his speed. But, nah.

Next on the list is No. 23, Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, a big hitter who seemed to be climbing draft boards. Odds are he will be gone before the Panthers can take him at No. 44.

No. 24 on our list is Eddy Lacy, the Alabama running back. But with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams on the Panthers' roster, and taking up a big chunk of salary cap space, Lacy is unlikely.

Greensboro product and Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen is at No. 27, and could be a possibility for Carolina if he's available. The Panthers need an eventual successor to Steve Smith, but questions about Allen's character could scare teams off, including Carolina.

Also available but unlikely for the Panthers are No. 30 Margus Hunt, a defensive end from SMU, No. 31 Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker, and Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, who is slightly more likely given Cam Newton's success in two tight end sets in his rookie season in 2011.

That brings us to the range where the Panthers could be picking. A look, individually, at the next group of players:

No. 34, Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State: A position of need for the Panthers, but his torn meniscus could be a deterrent.

No. 35, Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal: Have you seen enough of Southern Cal wide receivers on the Panthers roster?

No. 37, Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU: With Luke Kuechly on the Carolina roster, not a priority.

No. 40, Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State: Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy make him an unlikely choice.

No. 41, Monte Ball, RB, Wisconsin: Another area where the Panthers are set.

No. 42, Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State: Undersized LB not an area of need.

No. 43. Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State: A hog molly in Round 2, anyone?

No. 44, Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: A big enough need for the 44th pick?

No. 47, Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: Not an area of need, for reasons discussed above.

No. 48, Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State: Playmaker had four interceptions as a senior.

No. 50, Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: Filled this need in the first round. Among those in the next group who could be interesting and play a position of need for Carolina:

No. 51 Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State; No. 53 Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; No. 57 David Amerson, CB, N.C. State.

Also, don't be surprised if Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman goes for an offensive lineman, possibly a guard. The top guards on our list? No. 61 Larry Warford of Kentucky, who has weight problems, and No. 83 Brian Winters of Kent State. 

So, who do you like at No. 44?

Posted by Observer Sports on April 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

April 25, 2013

NFL draft video: Carolina Panthers pick Star Lotulelei

With the fourteenth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Utah DT Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei shared the 2011 Morris Trophy for the best lineman in the Pac-12.

Posted by Charlotte Observer on April 25, 2013 at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Panthers take DT Star Lotulelei with No. 14 pick

The Carolina Panthers selected Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the 14th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft.

More to come

Posted by Observer Sports on April 25, 2013 at 09:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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