Tom Sorensen

Short takes: On draft surprises, Josh Norman, a dirty Duke player, and Cam Newton

Admit it, you missed too on Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27).
Admit it, you missed too on Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27). AP

Like everybody else, the Panthers prepare for the draft as if it’s the most important test they will ever take. They go to pro days and to the scouting combine, talk to players and conduct interviews. They know what for them constitutes a Panther, and they try to find him.

If Cam Newton didn’t come off so well in their extensive scouting endeavors – the Panthers sent a team to assess him – they would not have selected him with the first pick in the 2011 draft.

All teams are industrious. Yet Kareem Hunt slid to the third round of the 2017 draft, the 86th player selected. Five running backs were taken before the Kansas City Chiefs took Hunt.

No rookie running back has had the season Hunt has. No other veteran running back has. Hunt leads the league in rushing. He rushed for more than 100 yards in each his first four games. He catches the ball.

All this, and he played at Toledo. Hunt has not always felt wanted, and that’s understandable. Even the pick with which he was drafted passed through two other teams.

Is he as good as the Dallas Cowboys’s Ezekiel Elliott was last season? So far he’s better.

The teams that passed on him and took another running back will tell you they’re happy with their guy. But if they knew what Hunt offered, they could have invested the earlier pick on a lineman, cornerback, quarterback or safety, and grabbed Hunt in the second round. …

The NFL is more interesting when Josh Norman is in it. Norman, the former Panther who plays for the Washington Redskins, suffered an injury to his ribs and likely will sit out a couple weeks. ...

Interesting that Grayson Allen has been made captain of the Duke basketball team. Allen is a talented player. He’s also as dirty. Nobody deliberately trips opponents with the ease Allen does.

“Guys,” Allen will say to his teammates when he addresses them. “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t.” Guys: “Wow. We can do anything we want. Thanks.”

When I see Allen I think of a 1977 song by the Grateful Dead in which they sing: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” ...

I thought the Carolina Panthers should have benched Cam Newton last week. I admit it. He hadn’t shown enough. In Games 1-3 he was a lesser version of himself as he was guided through his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. He was almost timid. Cam Newton is not timid.

Against New England he was the player who with his arm, legs and charisma who drove his team. He played with joy, and when he does it’s contagious. Teammates feel it. Fans also do.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter: