Round 4, Pick 15: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn St
As for Day 3 of the draft, the Panthers begin their string of athletic “freaks” with Penn State’s Brandon Smith. He’ll without a doubt be a developmental linebacker for Carolina, but he’s a super young guy who has upside that was too good to pass up. As for his game, he virtually has no idea what he’s doing as a linebacker, and is an athletic project who should be an incredible special teams player. His speed and size are real, and Carolina will look for him to contribute in some way as he develops functional play strength and ability to diagnose offenses.
Round 6, Pick 10: Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech
Amare Barno is another defender the Panthers grabbed who possesses elite speed at 6’4 245 lbs. While he wasn’t much of a consistent player in college, he showed flashes of powerful rush ability, and is well worth taking a chance on in the 6th round. He probably won’t see the field all that much in Year 1, but in this system has the potential to be the speed rusher Hassan Reddick was, and certainly a formidable special teamer.
Round 6, Pick 21: Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Recruited as a 5-Star prospect to Georgia, Mays has the makeup of what looks like a 1st round talent. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t put it together in the SEC, and didn’t quite carry the technique or consistency of Day 1 and 2 picks. On the other hand, he carries the frame and physicality to potentially become a starter, and one who is going to compete for Carolina’s RG spot Day 1. It isn’t likely, but its good value, and worth taking a shot at in the late 6th round.
Round 7, Pick 21: Kalon Barnes, CB Baylor
Overall, I liked what I saw from Kalon Barnes. He’s a smaller corner, but has elite speed you can use in certain matchups, and can serve as a depth piece or 4th corner on the Panthers depth chart. Great value here at the back end of the 7th round, and rounds out a really solid Day 3 for Carolina.
While Panther fans have suffered an underwhelming stretch of team building the past half-decade or so, I think this draft gets Carolina back on track. There are definitely more holes to fill, including one in particular who might not be wearing the headset for too much longer. But I’m excited to see what comes of Matt Corral, and the solid pieces Carolina added to this young roster.