With the eighth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…
8. Carolina Panthers: Solomon Thomas, DE | Stanford
Cam Newton has taken a beating thus far in his career, getting sacked 35 or more times in 5 of the last 6 seasons. (The 6th season he was still sacked 33 times.) Part of it is on Cam and his style of play but a big part of it is also the inconsistency of the offensive line. Cam is now recovering from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder and he can only hope that when he returns to the lineup the Panthers will have done all they can to help him out. Unfortunately for Cam I don’t think the Panthers have their eye on any offensive linemen prospects with the 8th pick in the draft. A lineman like Alabama’s Cam Robinson could help out on the right side of the line but that’s not the Panther way. O.J. Howard is an intriguing option but the Panthers already have pro bowl tight end Greg Olsen. I think receiver is out of the question too after drafting Kelvin Benjamin in the first round 3 years ago and Devin Funchess in the second round the following year. Don’t sleep on free agent pick ups Russell Shepard and Charles Johnson either. If Marshon Lattimore were still on the board he could help replace Josh Norman who the Panthers opted to let go last offseason. (Though they did end up spending 3 draft picks on corners right after to try and make up for that.) At the end of the day, general manager Dave Gettleman has been adamant about beefing up the front seven of the defense and I believe he will do so once more with a defensive end such as Stanford’s Solomon Thomas.
There’s a chance the 49ers could draft Thomas, which has sparked rumors Carolina would be interested in trading up so they could come away with one of the top 2 pass rushers in this years draft. Thomas would provide some depth behind defensive ends Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson and eventually would take over as the starter in one of those DE spots. But what if it wasn’t Thomas the Panthers were after. Another popular name I’ve seen in many mock drafts, and who would be a great fit in Carolina, is LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette is a downhill, powerful runner who would take some hits for Cam and provide Carolina with a dangerous one-two punch in Fournette and Jonathan Stewart. Stewart is getting up there in age (30) and hasn’t been the most durable back over his career. I think the Panthers would be thrilled if Fournette somehow slips passed the Jags and Jets and is available at 8 where Carolina selects. Cam Newton needs help, but Carolina’s defense also took a step backwards last season and they need to get back to playing like a top 10 unit if they hope to make another run.