When the Carolina Panthers traded Kony Ealy and a third round selection to the New England Patriots there was a bit of head scratching going on. Kony Ealy was far from an elite player, but at worst he was a serviceable backup. To trade a him to the Patriots and in turn move up only 8 spots in the draft didn’t make sense at first glance. Not when the Panthers are already thin at defensive end, even with the recent addition of Julius Peppers.
Then it occurred to me. This is not simply about moving up eight places. This could be about packaging two second round picks and moving up into the first round.
If you take a look at the 2017 Drafttek value chart, packaging the Carolina Panthers’ 40th and 64th picks could be enough value to move up to around pick 24 in the first round. If the Panthers sweeten the pot a little more, it is conceivable they move up ever further.
Seems plausible right?
Now follow me down this rabbit hole a little further. Who would the Carolina Panthers be targeting with such an aggressive move?
One possibility: With the 24th pick in the NFL draft the Carolina Panthers could possibly land running back Christian McCaffrey. As an elite level player, McCaffrey could impact the Panthers offense immediately and for many years to come. He would be an immediate upgrade over current roster counterpart Fozzy Whitaker. As an added bonus, McCaffrey could also fill in as a much needed slot receiver for the Panthers. In a sense, McCaffrey is two players in one within the Panthers system. Win-win-win.
Of course, this is mostly (or all) speculation on my part. But you cannot deny that dealing Kony Ealy to move up only 8 spots in the draft makes zero sense unless you put it in the context of packaging draft picks and moving up into the first round. It just so happens that doing so would land the Panthers where a player like McCaffrey may be waiting.