The Carolina Panthers hold their annual rookie camp this Friday and Saturday at the practice fields outside of Bank of America Stadium. In addition to 2017 draft picks and undrafted free agents will be a good number of tryout players hoping to catch the eye of Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. It may not be a Sunday afternoon in September, but hey, at least it is actual football news.
Before you brush this off as not newsworthy, you should know that marquee Carolina Panthers players have shown flashes in the past during their own rookie camp. For instance, in 2014 a rookie named Kelvin Benjamin put on a clinic against the entire rookie defense. The highlight of the day was a one handed grab, above traffic, that made Panthers GM Dave Gettleman clutch his heart.
Two years ago a receiver from SC named Damiere Byrd was the standout player. Byrd went on to work himself onto the practice squad and eventually onto the final roster.
Last season, it was the rookie cornerbacks that impressed early. Lord knows there was enough of them. So who will be the standout rookie this year ?
Friday will give the media their first glimpse of Christian McCaffrey in a Panthers jersey. McCaffrey will be in attendance, but will then miss practices until June due to school responsibilities. He is a pretty safe bet for anyone looking for excitement.
My money, however, is on second round pick Curtis Samuel. Rookie Camp is often times all about speed, something Samuel is said to have plenty of. He also seems to be the kind of guy that savors competition, any competition, even if it is a given that he has already made the team.
Enjoy a nice sleeper pick? Mississippi State receiver Fred Ross might be your guy. Although Ross doesn’t have the greatest measurables, he was still able to put together an impressive enough college career that many thought would have had him drafted. Instead, he finds himself as an UDFA on the Carolina Panthers roster, searching for an opportunity.
And what about the defense? Well, I suspect all eyes will be on another UDFA in linebacker Ben Boulware. I love a player with plenty of personality, and he is said to not disappoint in that department.