The 2013 Carolina Panthers draft class was heavily criticized after the event‘s conclusion and was graded as one of the worst in the entire league.
The biggest needs - wide receiver, cornerback and safety weren‘t even addressed. Instead, they took not one, but two defensive tackles in the first two rounds.
One year later, it looks a little different, though not a lot. The receiver position should have been improved in free agency or the draft, and the offensive line looked shaky from time to time.
However, it became apparent that the secondary is no problem at all, and in the meantime, the tackles Lotulelei and Short played extremely well.
Maybe some day the other three rookies will pan out as well. If they do, this draft class could turn out as a very good one in the end.
First Round: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Not many thought that the projected top-10 pick Star Lotulelei from Utah would fall to the 14th spot in the draft. Ultimately he did, and for the Panthers it couldn‘t have gotten any better.
The 24-year-old amassed 42 tackles and sacked the opposing quarterbacks three times. Although only playing 620 snaps, he was ranked as the 16th best defensive tackle in football by ProFootballFocus.
Second Round: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
It was a surprise when GM Dave Gettleman picked two defensive tackles in a row with other glaring holes to fill. However, with the defensive line not worked out completely, he decided to take Kawann Short from the Purdue Boilermakers.
Short only played a little more than half of the Panthers‘ defensive snaps, but when he was on the field, he made an impact. During the 16 regular season games he stacked up a total of 30 tackles, a forced fumble and one and a half sacks. With this selection, the Panthers have ensured the production from the defensive tackle position for the next century.
Fourth Round: Edmund Kugbila, OG, Valdosta State
Edmund Kugbila‘s season was over before it even began, when he strained his hamstring and was placed on injured reserve on August 27th. Considering the popular pre-draft prediction that he would go undrafted, the decision to acquire him in the fourth round was suspicious overall.
Fifth Round: A. J. Klein, LB, Iowa State
Another player, who didn‘t really make an impact in his first season for the Carolina Panthers, is the linebacker A. J. Klein from Iowa State. He was on the field for only 132 snaps, most of the time as weakside linebacker. Overall, he collected 21 tackles and two sacks, which is solid, considering his rare presence, but was nothing special. The 22-year-old has to step it up next year.
Sixth Round: Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Six rushing attemps, seven yards. Two kickoff returns, 17 yards. An overall of eight games. Sounds good? Definitely not. Kenjon Barner was non-existent in his first NFL season. You can‘t really blame him for that, though, as his teammates got their job done in the running game. However, you can blame the Panthers for taking him, despite not having a need at the position.
In conclusion, the 2013 Panthers draft class was fantastic - at least for the first two rounds. They got two defensive tackles, who showed they can compete at an elite level for the next few years. Otherwise, the draft was so-so. They would have been better off taking a wide receiver or two. They have the chance to do that this year.