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Carolina Panthers draft wrap-up

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2015 NFL draft: Panthers go for quality over quantity

ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton grades the team's draft, which saw Carolina trade away picks while still managing to land Shaq Thompson and Devin Funchess.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A wrap-up of the Carolina Panthers draft:

Best move: You could argue this also was the riskiest and most surprising move, but trading second-, third- and sixth-round picks to move up 16 spots to select Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess at No. 41 makes a lot of sense when you consider all the factors. One, the Panthers needed another wide receiver, and there weren't any of Funchess' caliber left on the board. That 27 more picks were made before another receiver was taken supports this. Two, there was almost no way nine draft picks were going to make the final 53-man roster, so getting rid of two picks here -- and ultimately two more for a fourth-round pick -- helped. Three, putting the 6-foot-5 Funchess opposite the 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin will create a lot of mismatches in the secondary. That not only will help the passing game, but it should also keep teams from loading eight in the box to stop the run. That will help quarterback Cam Newton be more effective.

Riskiest move: Not taking a tackle in the first round. While I love the selection of Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson at No. 25, it was somewhat of a reach in that many of the so-called draft experts had him with a second- or third-round grade. Thompson's a bit undersized (6-foot-1, 228 pounds), and there are questions about how he can shed blockers. The Panthers might have been able to get him in the second round. Perhaps it would have been a reach to take one of the tackles left at 25. Carolina ultimately had to trade three picks to move up 22 spots in the fourth round to get Oklahoma's Daryl Williams (6-foot-6, 329 pounds), who is left tackle size but a right tackle fit. Ultimately, the Panthers decided Michael Oher could handle the left tackle position. If that works out, everything that happened in the draft works. If it doesn't, Cam Newton could be running for his life.

Most surprising move: I have to go back to the trade to select Funchess. After the first round, general manager Dave Gettleman said it was important to keep his first three picks. In hindsight, that appears to have meant keep them on Day 1 so he would have ammunition for a Day 2 trade. That the Panthers ultimately went from nine draft picks to five also was somewhat surprising, considering how much Gettleman covets draft picks. That he let so many go spoke volumes about what he thought of the overall draft board. The Panthers had only 18 to 19 first-round grades on players. After five rounds, Gettleman said Carolina's board already was "picked pretty clean."

File it away: The late-developing news on LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins played a big role in Carolina's first-round draft plan. Law enforcement's interest in talking to Collins about the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend made him undraftable. That meant one fewer quality left tackle in the first 25 picks. When Florida's D.J. Humphries went one pick ahead of Carolina at No. 24, the Panthers selected Shaq Thompson. They had Thompson and Humphries rated equally. My guess is, because of need, Carolina would have taken Humphries.

My take: This draft was more about quality than quantity for Carolina, thus the trades to go from nine to five picks. The Panthers created competition where competition was needed and found players who can help on special teams. Their first two picks will create mismatches to make them better on both sides of the ball. Not getting a tackle who can play immediately on the left side is a risk unless Oher is the answer. But did Carolina improve? Yes. Thumbs up