Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers to target Defensive End in round one

carolina panthers solomon thomas

Now that the Carolina Panthers are well into the free agency period of the offseason, it is becoming more clear what their strategy will be in round 1 of the NFL draft. The Panthers currently have the eight pick overall and will have their choice of a good number of immediate impact players.

The most common name you will hear floated around is Leonard Fournette, the bruising LSU running back. I agree that Fournette is on the radar for the Carolina Panthers at pick 8, but I do not believe it is a forgone conclusion that he would be the pick.

Instead, the Panthers could very well select Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas at pick eight even if Leonard Fournette is still on the board. There are a few reasons this may be the case. Allow me to lay them out for you.

Monetary Value

Take a look around the league right now. Only one big named free agent running back has signed a contract as of today. Even guys like Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy are still available days after free agency began. Running backs just do not demand the dollars that they did in the past. Drafting a running back at pick 8 may not be the best value monetarily.

Defensive ends, on the other hand, have always demanded top dollar in the NFL, a fact that is unlikely to ever change. Selecting Solomon Thomas at 8 could provide the Panthers with an elite level defensive end for the next 5 years at a relatively modest salary. Even after his five years are up, the Carolina Panthers could then franchise him, making it a minimum 6 years on the team should he perform at a high level.


Running backs wear out in the NFL much faster than defensive ends. That fact is hard to dispute. Throw in the fact that Leonard Fournette has already had significant injury at the college level, and it may seem like Thomas to be more of a sure thing both this season and many seasons to come.

Immediate Impact

As we have seen so far this year, the Carolina Panthers are in “win now” mode. There is a real case for defensive need being the one position on the field in the most desperate need of help. Yes, the Panthers did just sign Julius Peppers, but he is not the #90 Panthers fans remember. This season Peppers’ role will be reduced to an occasional pass rusher. The Panthers need a young capable defensive end to frequently spell Charles Johnson opposite of Mario Addison. With Kony Ealy now in New England, Solomon Thomas could instantly be that guy.

While Leonard Fournette is an amazing running back prospect, the divide between himself and other running backs available in rounds 2 – 4 is more narrow. The Panthers could see real production out of a second or third round running back this season. A second or third round defensive end? Not so much.

Throw all of these points laid out above in a pot and let it simmer a bit. The more it simmers, the more drafting Solomon Thomas at pick 8 makes sense.



  1. NAte

    March 12, 2017 at 11:48 am

    The one area DG did not address in FA…?


    Ding ding ding

    • Saca312

      March 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      RB’s are deep this year. We’re very likely to find a good fit later on in the draft. I believe the 8th pick will probably be a pass rusher, as the DEs this year appear to be top heavy with talent, while S, TE, and RB are deep.

      • Klm

        March 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        So is DE. If deep draft is your argument wouldn’t targeting a safety in round 1 make more sense? You can get pass rusher and runningbacks with potential all the way into the 3rd round this year.

      • Whart

        April 26, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        Alvin Kamara with the 40th pick would go nicely with Derek Barnett with the 8th.

  2. Bill Stanley

    March 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Would McCaffrey be a better fit because of his versatity? Using him as a slot. Receiver and out side runs?

    • Hoenheim

      March 13, 2017 at 11:51 am

      That all depends on if Shula actually uses him correctly. I think Smitty had the best comment about McCaffrey at the combine, that he needs to be in a system and/or a coach that uses his skills correctly to flourish in the NFL. If Shula just uses him exactly the same as Stew (run up gut all the time), and never uses him in the short passing game then McCaffrey would be wasted here. His best fit for an existing coaching system I believe is the Eagles, Chiefs, Patriots. He’s a perfect fit for how the Patriots use their running backs and Bellicheck seems to always know how to maximize player potential

  3. chris

    March 12, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I figured it would be a DE when Ealy was traded for a 2nd rd. pick. Carolina could trade back, add another pick, & still get Solomon. The added picks could be used to trade up for Christian McCaffrey in late 1st rd.

    • Bryan

      March 12, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      Solomon will be gone in the Top 10, maybe even before 8

  4. Klm

    March 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    My only problem with this is the title. It makes it sound like you have some information that they are looking in that direction rather than just another theory. Just like the people who jumped all over the “they must be trading up” crap when they moved up with the Ealy trade. Like theyd move up a month bedore the draft not knowing whos available. It’s just as likely they address the only position of need they didn’t during FA and go rb.

  5. Eric T Heinke

    March 12, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Like to see the Panthers draft OJ Howard at 8th pick. Trade back into the First for a DE or John Ross. Trade our high 2nd,3rd, and 2018 2nd. I Know DG like his picks,but we will make the Playoffs/Super Bowl! !

  6. RC Thompson

    March 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Yea I like the value more with OJ Howard. We run 12 personnel and 22 personnel groups almost half the time. RR has already said in a PC he wanted more of the 2 TE sets. So go get Howard. Let him and Olsen help improve the run game with their great blocking abilities and at the same time they can stretch the field. So much talent deep in the draft for RBs, cough cough (Samaje Perine great powerback) and Edge guys..

    • RC Thompson

      March 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Also I highly doubt Solomon falls to 8 anymore. I wish but doubt it.

    • Eric T Heinke

      March 12, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      RC Thompson, I like want you said about OJ Howard. I am seeing mock drafts seein him being picked by Buffalo or Cleveland. If the Panthers want to replace an elite TE for future elite TE this is when we do it at the 8th pick. He might be better than Jimmy Graham. Plus last we were planning to draft Hunter Henry, but Butler felled to us. We will have a elite offense next year. Mark my word OJ Howard and Tanah DE out of Villanova will be Panthers picks. DG, loved those guys in the Senior Bowl.

  7. Jonathan H. Riddle

    March 12, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I think its going to be Howard as well….nobody is calling this. The one thing Gettleman always does is pick a guy that no one mentioned. Can you imagine the possibilities of having Howard and Olsen on the field at the sametime?

  8. William A Burnett

    March 12, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I just hope we can get an elite DE,Christian & Fournette and possibly another Offensive Lineman with one more defensive lineman then we will be back.. That’s probably just too good to ever come to fruition.

    • Hoenheim

      March 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Impossible unless we trade future first round picks . You could def get two of them though , depending on if the team is willing to trade both their 2nd rounders to move back into the 3rd round or move up to the top of the 2nd in case some one drops to the 2nd.

      It’s pretty easy to see us getting either S.Thomas or D.Barnett with 8, then trade both our 2nds with a mid to laTE round team to snag McCaffrey , Curtis Samuel, OJ Howard, John Ross . DE is the safe pick at 8 assuming Thomas and Barnett are still there.

      In my opinion the best thing the team could do if fournette , adams, Hooker (only premier talents I view as must take at pick 8) are all gone, trade down with the browns , eagles, or Colts to basically have a mid first rounder and get their 2nd rounder (ideally the browns second rounder) . Pick Ross , Howard , McCaffrey , Curtis Samuel , or D.Barnett with the new first rounder, then trade a couple of the 2nd rounders we have to move back into the first to take BPA if someone they like falls to the late first . Other wise they could use a couple of the seconds to get another high 2nd rounder for two high seconds total. . There will still be some great talent available in the top half of the second round.

  9. Pantherdude

    March 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Would like Perine @98, assuming draft picks remain the same.Michael Turner type back who fits our offensive identity.

  10. Malcolm

    March 13, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Two things I’m confused about how in the world did running back and DE all of a sudden become our biggest needs when we only got 3 corners on the team 2 are 1 year starters that really didn’t perform well in there rookie seasons and the other is a 5,9 nickel back and CB is really the deepest position in the draft anybody who watched last season and payed attention could see Corner and Oline was our downfall the rookies at corner thru the whole defense off and poor O-line play thru the O off 2nd thing why does everybody think solomon is gonna drop to us he’s projected to go pick 1 and why do we want him so bad after he openly begged the Cowboys to take him proving he really not gonna commit to no where else

  11. Pingback: Top 3 Carolina Panthers Needs - Updated

  12. Csrpanfan95

    March 13, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Think outside the box guys. We traded Ealy. 2nd round pick who is to say we don’t do it again to move from 8 to #1 and take DE Myles Gsrrett. I can think of about 5 players and the 8th pick to get me there without loosing any draft picks or production. Then creating cap space to sign KK, Star and Norwell.

    That is as much as I will explain and it could happen if Gettleman stays aggressive.

  13. freeper

    March 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Folks who keep talking about the depth in RB this year ignore that most of those RBs are spread offense products who lack the well-rounded game that it takes to succeed in the NFL and will have to learn the pro game, which will take a season or 2. Spread offense RBs are only used on a few running plays, and are used to trying to get a big play on every run because the offense has spread the field and the defense is on their heels defending the pass. They have no concept of things like reading the blocking, attacking the hole and churning out tough yards to turn a 2 yard gain into a 4-5 yard one like they would have to do on most NFL plays.

    Some of the RBs who are taken later in this draft will eventually pan out when they learn the NFL game, but watch how few of them actually do anything as rookies this year. I bet Fournette, Cook and McCaffrey will be the only ones to do anything as rookies. As for people talking about how Perine will be a good power back … do you know how many big backs in that Oklahoma system have done anything in the NFL? If Perine does he will be the first. Also, there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between being a “power back” in Oklahoma’s spread offense and in an NFL one. Besides, why would this already plodding defense need a power back to begin with? It needs someone who can churn up real estate the way that Devonta Freeman can. That is why Dalvin Cook is the best bet … he is a bigger, better Devonta Freeman. Who by the way, did not do squat as a rookie and needed a year to develop because he is barely 200 lbs. and when he came out of FSU was even smaller. Cook is 215 lbs. and after a couple of years of NFL weight training will be over 220 easily.

    If the Panthers were going to draft a DE at #8, they should have signed Latavius Murray in free agency. They could have gotten him on a 4 year $20 million deal. But honestly, taking an RB later in the draft means going into next year with Stewart as the #1 RB and waiting until he gets hurt again. Since the Panthers are bringing Stewart and his $7 million cap figure back next season, that is probably their plan. Good luck with that on a team that will still lack a #1 WR, will be looking at journeymen to play #3 WR for the umpteenth year in a row, and will be only average at best at OT, especially if Oher can’t go and Williams has to play RT. A team with the deficiencies that the Panthers have on offense is just screaming for franchise talent at RB, and it is amazing that so many people refuse to acknowledge it, as if the Panthers have the Cowboys OL – and the Cowboys have Elliot at RB by the way – or the Packers, Giants, Falcons, Saints, Patriots etc. group at WR.

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