Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
The Panthers have a number of needs in order to field a competitive team once again.
They are in need of getting a new face for their franchise and drafted Cam Newton even though they drafted Jimmy Clausen from Notre Dame and then threw him to the wolves. They need a #1 wideout unless Steve Smith can rejuvanate himself with Newton or Clausen under center and they need a right guard unless Jeff Otah comes back from injury.
From the defensive side of the ball, they need two starting defensive tackles, a defensive end unless Everette Brown can build upon his late season success after his four-sack run in the last five games, and a cornerback if Richard Marshall is not re-signed.
Instead of drafting a clear team need at DT, they decided that Newton was their man. They addressed the potential loss of Anderson and Davis with Acho which is a solid add in the 3rd round and presents solid value. CB Josh Thomas was drafted in the 4th round as a potential replacement for Marshall and he was a bit of a reach as he was projected to be drafted in the 6th-7th round and was ranked as the #29th rated cornerback.
Then the Panthers proceeded to draft Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, from LSU in the 3rd round who was projected with a 4th round grade. The Panthers run a 4-3 defense and have a very solid MLB in Jon Beason so the pick in Sheppard is both outside of the range in the 3rd round and potentially only serves as a backup to Beason unless he is moved to OLB.
WR Vincent Brown, a possession receiver out of San Diego State, was drafted in the 4th round, and serves as a potential #3 receiver but will lack the ability to be an outside wideout opposite of Steve Smith.
However, the Panthers may have saved its best for last in picks Alexander Green, RB from Hawaii and Cecil Shorts from Mount Union. Green and Shorts are capable of being immediate source of help on special teams with Green potentially becoming a nice #2 back and 3rd down back behind Jonathan Stewart. Shorts is a true sleeper from Mount Union who projects to have a better career than Brown.
The Panthers draft grades out as a C- because of the misses on Sheppard and Brown when they could have drafted other players who could have had an impact on their offensive line, on the defensive line or at outside linebacker.