2017 CAROLINA PANTHERS FOOTBALL CAPSULE

HEAD COACH: Ron Rivera

RECORD WITH TEAM: 53 – 42 – 1

CAREER RECORD: 53 – 42 – 1

2016 RECORD: 6 – 10

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Shula

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Steve Wilkes

STADIUM: Bank of America Stadium (73,788)

2017 OFFENSIVE MVP: Cam Newton

2017 DEFENSIVE MVP: Luke Kuechly

POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH: Safety

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND:

2012: 7 – 9

2013: 12 – 4

2014: 7 – 9

2015: 15 – 1

2016: 6 – 10

 

2016 RESULTS

L Denver 21 – 20

W San Francisco 46 – 27

L Minnesota 22 – 10

L Atlanta 48 – 33

L Tampa Bay 17 – 14

L New Orleans 41 – 38

W Arizona 30 – 20

W Los Angeles 13 – 10

L Kansas City 20 – 17

W New Orleans 23 – 20

L Oakland 35 – 32

L Seattle 40 – 7

W San Diego 28 – 16

W Washington 26 – 15

L Atlanta 33 – 16

L Tampa Bay 17 – 16

 

 

2017 SCHEDULE

September 10 at San Francisco

September 17 Buffalo

September 24 New Orleans

October 1 at New England

October 8 at Detroit

October 12 Philadelphia

October 22 at Chicago

October 29 at Tampa Bay

November 5 Atlanta

November 13 Miami

November 26 at NY Jets

December 3 at New Orleans

December 10 Minnesota

December 17 Green Bay

December 24 Tampa Bay

December 31 Atlanta

 

2017 DRAFT SELECTIONS – 7 PICKS

Rd1. Pk #8 – Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR, Stanford

My argument against any running back at #8 was my belief that we could still find a good running back later in the draft. That argument was somewhat proven true when Dalvin Cook (once, a favorite of many at #8) slid all the way to the 41st pick. Additionally, Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara was not taken until #67, Texas RB D’Onta Foreman was picked at #89, and Oklahoma’s Same Perine was not selected until #114.

However, McCaffrey is no ordinary running back. As a sophomore, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA 27-year old record for all-purpose yards with 3,496 yards. He has been very productive running between the tackles, but some in the draft media thought he would have been one of the top two or three slot-receivers available, and he is also a very good return man.

Personally, I am much more sold on his receiving and in space ability than his skills behind the line of scrimmage, but players like Reggie Bush, James White, and Danny Woodhead have shown that passing-game specialists can be valued chess pieces even if they are committee members and don’t log heavy carries.

While, I warned CSR readers “McCaffrey’s once in a generation stats (in 2015) seem to have been accentuated by volume, and an offensive line that typically man-handles opponents”, McCaffrey was also limited by poor quarterback play, and a conservative offensive philosophy while at Stanford.

 

Rd2. Pk #40 – Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State

Panthers GM, Dave Gettleman is starting to get a Noah’s Ark reputation, when it comes to the draft, and he once again “double-dipped” by taking Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel in the second round.

After serving as a back-up for his first two seasons, Samuel broke-out in 2016, and elected to forgo his final season of eligibility.

Samuel was named first-team All-Big Ten, rushing for 771 yards (8.0 average) and eight touchdowns and catching 74 passes for 865 yards (11.7 average) and seven scores. He led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards per game at 128.8 and paced the Buckeyes with his 15 TDs.

Pro Football Focus compared Samuel to Percy Harvin. Harvin played a similar role for Urban Meyer when both were at Florida. PFF gives us this advance stat: “Lined up in the slot on 425 snaps in 2016 compared to 220 snaps in the backfield.”

Some draft analysts, like Kyle Posey feel he’s the best slot receiver in the draft. Posey explains “Samuel with a 2 way go or in space is usually a win for the offense”.

While McCaffrey is more proven and more polished, Samuel has better speed. Highlighted by Samuel’s 4.31-second 40-yard dash, Samuel had a very good performance at the NFL Combine. That time proved to be the faster than any of the running backs and the second fastest among WRs.

Due to some drops in nationally televised games, he has an undeserved reputation for drops. However, according to CFB film room, Samuel only had a drop rate of 3.2% in 2016.

From the outside, it appears the plan will be to use both moveable chess-pieces in order to keep defenses guessing.

 

Rd2. Pk #64 – Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan

While WR Corey Davis was the star, Moton was a four-year starter at Western Michigan, spending three of those years at right tackle. PFF charted Moton with only two QB hits and eight hurries last season, and he only gave up two sacks, seven QB hits, and 25 hurries over the past three seasons. However, they suggest a move inside to guard may be necessary.

Moton is also a pretty impressive athlete, having registered the fourth best wTEF score of all the available offensive lineman. WTEF stands for Weight-Adjusted Trench Explosion Formula, a metric invented by (Seahawks-centric) draft analyst Rob Staton. Staton suggests that an OLine prospect would ideally achieve a 31-inch vertical, a 9-foot broad jump, and 27 reps in the bench press. WTEF uses these numbers to create an overall score for each individual offensive lineman.

PersonalIy, I had Moton ranked as my fourth OT prospect available, and most analysts had given him either a second or third round grade.

 

Rd3. Pk #77 – Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M

For most of his career, Hall was known as the “other” DE for the Aggies. After all, he lined up opposite all-world Myles Garrett. While is not as athletic, nor was he as productive as the number one overall pick, Hall has about the same build (6’5, 266).

Hall will need to continue to get stronger, become more physical against the run, and develop some secondary pass-rush moves.

In the end, I put a fringe second/third round grade on him, but few in the draft media had him in the top-100, and most preferred Carl Lawson, Derek Rivers, and Tarell Basham (all three were still on the board at the time).

With the return of Julius Peppers, as well as Mario Addison and Charles Johnson, the Panthers will have the luxury of grooming Hall slowly. In time, I think this could end up being a very good pick, but it may not look that way early.

 

Rd5. Pk #152 – Corn Elder, CB, Miami

Elder was one of my favorite mid/late round prospects, but one I did not think the Panthers would select. It appeared Gettleman preferred six-foot plus, long-armed corners, and Elder was the antithesis of that. At the NFL Combine, Elder measured in just the 13th percentile in weight and 24th in height (vs other NFL cornerbacks).

Elder was the final draft profile I wrote-up prior to the draft, and I wrote he was a fringe top-100 player for me. In the end, he did not make it into my Top-100, but I did have a fourth round grade on him, and wrote

Corn Elder is not going to be coveted by every team. He is smaller than many teams like, and these size-based limitations do occasionally show up on film. However, his ability to click and close is elite and his quickness should make him an asset far more often than a liability.

As a rookie, Elder will likely back-up Captain Munnerlyn at the nickel CB spot, and be a major contributor on special teams.

 

Rd6. Alex Armah – FB(?), West Georgia

When Armah was drafted, I had never heard of him (actually, I had never heard of West Georgia College). He was all-conference at both TE and DE, but it is anticipated that he will play FB for the Panthers, and play special teams.

With the release of Mike Tolbert, it was not shocking the Panthers took a FB late in the draft, but names like Freddie Stevenson and Sam Rodgers seemed like the most likely candidates.

During pre-draft workouts, he measured in at 6-feet-0 and 240 pounds. He reportedly ran a 4.68 40, 34.5″ vertical jump, a 10-foot-2 broad jump, a 4.29 20-yard shuttle, a 7.00 3-cone, and competed 26 reps in the bench press.

 

Rd7. Pk #233 – Harrison Butker, K, Georgia Tech

Coming out of HS, Butker was ranked as the top kicker prospect in the entire country, but he was just the third kicker drafted over the weekend.

Rarely do you hear fans pounding the table for a kicker, but toward the end of the sixth round, many CSR readers were hopeful the Panthers would draft Arizona State kicker, Zane Gonzalez. However, he was selected just before the Panthers picked.

Kickers rarely get drafted. Consider that, in the past five years, just 1.8 kickers have been selected per draft, and just nine total. Eight of the nine were taken in rounds 5-7.

It was somewhat surprising Butker was one of the four kickers invited to the NFL Combine. After all, Butker wasn’t among the 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top kicker, and was only named honorable mention all-ACC on the media team by the media.

However, once he got there, he proved his talent, making 14 of 15 field-goal attempts on kicks between 30 and 50 yards. On top of his field-goal performance in Indianapolis, Butker performed well on his 11 kickoffs, where he was asked to attempt five for distance and six directional kicks. Of his five long bombs, three hit the fence behind the end zone.

 

PLAYER MOVEMENT

ADDITIONS

SS Mike Adams, Indianapolis

WR Charles Johnson, Minnesota

OT Matt Kalil, Minnesota

CB Captain Munnerlyn, Minnesota

DE Julius Peppers, Green Bay

WR Russell Shepard, Tampa Bay

 

LOSSES

WR Philly Brown, Buffalo

WR Ted Ginn, New Orleans

LB AJ Klein, New Orleans

OT Mike Remmers, Minnesota

FB Mike Tolbert, Buffalo

 

2016 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

PASSING: Cam Newton, 270 – 510 –3,509 – 19TD – 14INT

RUSHING: Jonathan Stewart, 218 – 824 – 3.8 – 9TD

RECEIVING: Greg Olson, 80 –1,073 – 13.4 – 3TD

TACKLES: Thomas Davis, 106

SACKS: Mario Addison, 9.5

INTERCEPTIONS: Kurt Coleman, 4

 

2016 TEAM STATISTICS

OFFENSE

TOTAL: 343.7

RUSHING: 113.4

PASSING: 230.3

SCORING: 23.1

THIRD DOWN%: 37.2

PUNT RETURNS: 7.0

KICK RETURNS: 22.4

 

DEFENSE

TOTAL: 359.8

RUSHING: 91.6

PASSING: 268.2

SCORING: 25.1

INTERCEPTIONS: 17

SACKS: 47

TURNOVER MARGIN: -2

 

NUMBERS TO KNOW

57: None of Carolina’s top four receivers had a reception rate higher than 57%.

2:30: against Carolina’s defense, opposing offenses had the lowest average time of possession per drive at two minutes and 30 seconds.

78: On third – and – short, fourth – and – short and goal – two – go, 78% of runs against the Panthers achieved a first down or touchdown.

 

WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING ABOUT CAROLINA

Carolina reach the Super Bowl II seasons ago and fell off the cliff in 2016. Now the Panthers must find a way to climb that mountain once again with a mix of old and new players. Quarterback Cam Newton will be entering his seventh NFL season and took a couple of steps backward in 2016. He suffered a career low in completion percentage as Carolina stumbled to a 6 10 record. Newton was named the most valuable player in Carolina’s Super Bowl season and the coaching staff is hoping he will return to that form in 2017. Newton must come back from a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder that required surgery in March. The Panthers fell to 15th in scoring last year and head coach Ron Rivera is promising to evolve the offense. Expect changes in how the Panthers use Newton including viewer zone reads and more play – action passing. One huge area of concern is protecting their star quarterback who has taken more sacks than any other quarterback, other than Alex Smith, over the last six seasons.

Newton should have more weapons on offense thanks to the drafting of rookies Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel. The coaching staff will attempt to get both of them on the field as soon as they can.

Carolina added a couple of veterans including DE Julius Peppers and CB Captain Munnerlyn, both who played in Carolina before. The OL got better with the signing of LT Matt Kalil to a five – year, $55.5 million contract. That deal could make or break GM Dave Gettleman and Coach Rivera.

Rivera must avoid to disappointing seasons in a row if he is to stay off the hot seat. Newton will have to play much better and improve his mechanics and use his weapons effectively. If he can get rid of the ball quicker, Carolina has a chance to be a winning football team. If Newton doesn’t play better, this is a football team that is no better than .500

 

PREDICTION: 8 – 8, third place in the NFC South.