Each Panthers pick analyzed: Moore adds speed at receiver

--- NFLDraftScout.com ---

The needs for the Carolina Panthers were clear, so they zeroed in on them early in the draft and they gained mostly positive reviews to show for it.

It became apparent that general manager Marty Hurney's discussions about adding speed across the board weren't just convenient talk. The Panthers went out and backed it up.

They took wide receiver D.J. Moore out of Maryland in the first round and followed that with cornerback Donte Jackson, a speedster out of LSU, in the second round.

By the time they took defensive back Rashaan Gaulden out of Tennessee, the Panthers had given the defensive backfield a big boost.

They spent two of their first three picks on defensive backs.

"That's an area that we want to upgrade and build and we were able to do that," Hurney said.

But the big prize might be Moore because he's a player who combines speed with the play-making ability that the Panthers have desperately sought to help provide more downfield production.

"He was one of the guys that we really didn't think was going to get to us (with the 24th overall pick) but he did and we feel lucky that he did," Hurney said.

As much that's being made about Moore's speed, Hurney continues to emphasize that his ability to break tackles might be what separated him from other receivers in the draft.

Moore offered the self-assessment as well when asked about his strengths.

"I would say run after catch, right off the bat," he said.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Moore's role could come at any of the receiver positions, so that's something the team can study across the next few months.

There's also the versatility element that the Panthers have come to embrace. They did that last year with first-round pick Christian McCaffrey and they see some of those traits in the players they selected this year.

Moore put together a strong background in special teams during college. The same goes for Jackson, who also will be looked at as a punt returner.

With Jackson, the Panthers like what he does with his speed beyond posting impressive numbers on the stop watches.

"He's sudden, he's quick," Hurney said. "He plays fast. He's going to help us in a lot of areas."

Hurney praised Gaulden's instincts. Rivera said the Panthers are going to make it a priority to see how he can handle the safety position before other options are explored.

It might be possible to envision Gaulden stepping into the role that had been held by safety Kurt Coleman.

Gaulden said his background includes learning to play at different spots.

"I can play anything in the defensive backfield," he said. "So, I mean that's just the confidence that I have. That's just through the coaches that I've had. They've trained me to be able to play any position in the back end."

If there was an area that the Panthers didn't directly address, it was the offensive line. They had interest in some of the players, but nothing that worked out as draft developments unfolded.

"They flew off the board quickly but again, we talked about patience and we kind of let the board come to us," Hurney said. "I think we're very happy. You can't draft everybody. You can't fill every need but I think that we feel like we got very good value."

A closer look at the Panthers' picks:

Round 1/24 - D.J. Moore, WR, 6-0, 210, Maryland

The Panthers were serious about upgrading at receiver as Moore was one of only two receivers taken in the first round. They were surprised he was still available, so it made the selection easy. His arrival to the organization is endorsed by QB Cam Newton, so that's a nice side benefit.

Round 2/55 - Donte Jackson, CB, 5-11, 178, LSU

Jackson ran 4.32 in the 40 at the Combine, so there's the speed element that the Panthers have been coveting. He could immediately contend for a starting role and he's bound to arrive with the confidence that will be necessary to handle that. The Panthers aren't concerned with his size, knowing the speed is a difference-maker.

Round 3/85 - Rashaan Gaulden, S, 6-1, 197, Tennessee

There's versatility here with a player who was often molded as a nickel back in college. He should fill the gaps from a physical standpoint, something that might have been lost with the departure of veteran Kurt Coleman. His biggest asset could be the flexibility he might provide in the secondary.

Round 4/101 - Ian Thomas, TE, 6-4, 259, Indiana

His size and athleticism are bound to create some attention. He has been on a fast track while taking a junior college route, and there should be time to groom him behind Greg Olsen. He isn't as polished as some tight ends who were drafted before him, but the Panthers are OK with that because they see the potential.

Round 4/136 - Marquis Haynes, DE, 6-2, 235, Mississippi

The Panthers will be excited to see how his quickness translates at this level because that's one of his assets if he remains at defensive end. There were some projections that he might be shifted to outside linebacker, so that could be worth monitoring. His 32 career sacks are an Ole Miss record, eclipsing the total of 26.5 set by former Panther Greg Hardy.

Round 5/161 - Jermaine Carter Jr., LB, 6-0, 228, Maryland

He's a college teammate of the Panthers' first-round pick. The Panthers know the importance of stocking the linebacker position and this was the first step in doing that. There's no lack of production from this guy who plays with a relentless style that would be expected of a team leader.

Round 7/234 - Andre Smith, LB, 6-0, 237, North Carolina

He went out with a knee injury early in the 2017 season and then opted to enter the draft. He has a high motor and he's full of confidence. His leadership skills could blossom, but it will be worth seeing how he handles pass coverage roles at this level.

Round 7/242 - Kendrick Norton, DT, 6-3, 314, Miami

He might be the run stuffer that the Panthers could require because some offseason moves meant a need to replenish depth in the middle. Norton has been a mainstay in the lineup since his freshman season and his mobility is perhaps sometimes underrated. Norton is the grandson of former heavyweight champion Ken Norton. He's a former teammate of LB Andre Smith (also taken in the seventh round) at Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla.


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