I had so much fun the first time, I’m ready to ride this roller coaster again.
In the second version of my “Mindreader Mock,” I offer my first projections for each Carolina Panthers pick in the draft, a closer look as to why that pick could be made, plus a “mock monologue” of what Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman might be thinking as he makes these decisions.
Please keep arms, legs and opinions inside until the vehicle has come to a complete stop.
Round 1, Pick 8
Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford.
To discount McCaffrey as a top-10 player in this draft without researching his effectiveness is just plain lazy. To underestimate his fit with the Panthers is even worse.
McCaffrey fills two of the biggest needs the Panthers have entering the draft as a stud running back and prolific receiver at any spot on the route chart, from slot to outside threat. His prowess as a return specialist is an added bonus.
McCaffrey has his fair share of doubters (I get the emails) who don’t think he’s an “every-down back” or even a very good running back at all, and don’t think he can power-run enough to help ease the pressure off of quarterback Cam Newton. Those people are wrong.
Only two running backs other than McCaffrey in this class faced a box loaded with eight or more defensive players on 50 percent or more of rush attempts. McCaffrey faced this scenario on 64 percent of his carries. In those situations, he rushed for an average of 145.7 yards per game and averaged 5.86 yards per carry. That is 25 more yards per game than LSU back Leonard Fournette, who faced this scenario on 67 percent of his carries and averaged 5.48 yards per carry. With this same criteria, McCaffrey averaged 23 carries per game while Fournette averaged 18.4.
So yes, McCaffrey is a workhorse back. He’s also a heck of a lot more than that.
Plus, drafting McCaffrey eases the pressure to pick up a slot receiver early and frees up room to snag say, an edge rusher or offensive tackle.
A source told the Observer that McCaffrey had a visit with the Panthers that went well.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “Here is my next franchise face. Here is my game-changer investment player and Day-1 impact starter for an offense that badly needs it. Here is my three-in-one threat. Did I really just score a first-or-second-round graded receiver, running back and return specialist, all with one pick? You bet I did.”
Round 2, Pick 40
Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin.
There is no certain top-10 tackle in this draft, and former starting left tackle (and now projected right tackle) Michael Oher is expected to play in 2017 after six months spent recovering from a concussion, but the Panthers need to stock some depth at this position all the same. Ramczyk, a 6-foot-6 and 310-pound tackle with nearly 34-inch arms, is perfect as a project-to-starter prospect and will probably be around at this time for the Panthers. Another decent tackle prospect, Garrett Bolles, will probably be gone.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “I’ll sleep tonight knowing I got my hog mollie. I’m not as concerned about Michael’s health as I was six months ago and both Ron Rivera and I think he’s going to be good to go, but we need that depth. It half-killed me to see my hog mollies go through the injuries they did last season, and it half-killed Cam, too.”
Round 2, Pick 64 (from New England)
Tarell Basham, defensive end, Ohio.
Basham is a little under-the-radar still, but likely won’t be for very long. He had 11 1/2 sacks and 16 tackles-for-loss in 2016 on his way to becoming the Mid-American Defensive Player of the Year – but it’s not so much what his numbers say as much as how he got them.
On tape, Basham shows the same type of burst and relentless pursuit as Panthers edge-rusher Mario Addison. He also man-handled top tackle prospect Antonio Garcia when Ohio played Troy. According to NBC/Rotoworld analyst Josh Norris, Basham played 65 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 and rushed from both sides, showing consistency on either end. Norris also projects Basham as a second-rounder.
His size – 6-4 and 270 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms – and speed (he ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine) is a perfect match for the types of players Gettleman likes at defensive end.
A source told the Observer that Panthers defensive line coach Eric Washington worked out Basham in Ohio last week.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “I want Mario in a larger role this season, which leaves room for a situational edge-rusher who can hit hard from both sides when rotation for older guys like Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers is needed. Basham can also develop into much more than a situational guy. I love his size and I love his speed – this kid’s gonna knock somebody on his keister.”
Round 3, Pick 98
Jake Butt, tight end, Michigan.
Butt is not the fastest tight end prospect in this draft class, nor is he the most athletic. But the Michigan star has an incredible knack for creating space on routes and opening tight windows for his quarterback – something Newton would do well with in 2017. He also has very reliable hands.
Carolina wants to use a playmaker as a second tight end in its personnel groupings alongside future Hall of Famer Greg Olsen, and Butt’s blocking ability paired with his skill as a receiver make him both a great fit and a bargain at this pick. Butt and Olsen share a financial adviser and Butt said at the NFL combine that he hopes Olsen put in a good word for him with Carolina.
In fact, the only reason Butt is not going in the late first round or early second is because he is recovering from ACL surgery.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “So I got my second Greg Olsen, and now I need to make sure we use him. I feel great about Jake’s ability to block for Cam, receive and make an impact on our offense as a Day-1 starter – no ifs, ands or Butts about it.”
Round 4, Pick 115
Larry Ogunjobi, defensive tackle, Charlotte
A source told the Observer that the Panthers were considering adding a defensive tackle this draft to increase the depth and competition level in the room. And up-and-comer prospect such as Ogunjobi is the perfect option.
Ogunjobi, a local guy and one of national analyst Mike Mayock’s favorite defensive tackle prospects in this class, has nice hands, good burst and great size – and he’s still developing his technique and seems to have a high ceiling. He shows a relentless work-ethic and enthusiasm for his craft, which could bring some nice energy into the defense.
Ogunjobi recently visited with the Panthers.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “We have some talented defensive tackles on this roster, but I want to see a fire lit under Star Lotulelei and Kyle Love. With KK (Kawann Short) expected to sign his franchise tag in the coming weeks, we will have a complete room with the addition of Ogunjobi. I like the kid a lot.”
Round 5, Pick 152
Johnathan “Rudy” Ford, defensive back, Auburn
Ford could be quite the bargain at this pick. The 5-11, 205-pound Auburn product is a little on the smaller side (with shorter arms than Gettleman normally picks), but he makes up for it with his versatility. Ford plays well both at safety and as a nickel corner, making him a potential two-for-one backup option to Mike Adams, Kurt Coleman and Captain Munnerlyn.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “I don’t like his arm length but I love this kid’s experience all over the secondary. I don’t need a third starting safety or a second starting nickel corner (or even a starting outside corner), but what I do need is players who can back them up. Rudy can do all of it – and he’s just one guy!”
Round 6, Pick 192
Will Likely, corner/return specialist, Maryland
Suppose Carolina doesn’t want to risk injury to its new star, McCaffrey, on special teams. Enter Likely, who was an absolute menace on special teams while at Maryland and led the conference in return yards and returns for touchdown on his way to becoming an All-American.
Likely is on the small side and recovering from ACL repair surgery. When he’s back to 100 percent, he can be a very serviceable backup despite his smaller size for starting corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley – Likely uses his speed as a weapon, and plays big.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “I’m very confident in my two starting corners, but this pick is all about the insurance, baby.”
Round 7, Pick 233 (from Indianapolis through Cleveland)
Francis Owusu, wide receiver, Stanford
I can’t help it, I’m still stuck on Owusu as Carolina’s next burner receiver. I picked him in my first mock for his speed (at 6-3 and 221 pounds, Owusu ran back-to-back sub-4.4-second 40-yard dashes and posted a vertical of 40 1/2 inches at Stanford’s pro day according to NFL reporter Jason Cole). Those are freakish numbers (it helped that he did it in front of Panthers coach Ron Rivera), and like I said before, they are definitely worth testing out against NFL defensive backs.
Dave Gettleman’s Inner Monologue: “I’m padding the receiver room to see who steps up and shows me something this season. Owusu? I choose a-you-su.”