It seems to be a forgone conclusion that the Carolina Panthers will draft a running back this year. As much was confirmed during the Dave Gettleman press conference. When asked if the Panthers would indeed draft a new ball carrier, Gettleman replied “That’s a fair statement” . This is about as close to an outright admission as you will ever get from a NFL general manager. Last season when asked if the Panthers would draft a cornerback, Gettleman just chuckled. The Panthers ended up drafting not one, but three corners. In short, be ready for a new face to the Carolina Panthers run game.
As luck would have it, this is one of the most talented and deepest drafts for running backs in recent memory. The question of which the Panthers will select will mainly depend on value. Because this is a deep draft, don’t expect the Panthers to reach for a player and miss out on a more skilled player at a different position. It won’t happen. This is especially true now that the Panthers have an extra third round selection. A starting running back can be found this year in the third round, and the Panthers could have two swings at it.
So, I will break down for you the Panthers options in rounds 1 through 3, as I believe a choice will be made before round 4.
Round 1: Leonard Fourtnette
Fournette is the only running back on the Panthers radar at the eighth pick overall in the draft. If Fournette is available, and that is a big if, he could be the selection. This is not to say he is a sure thing however. For instance, if LSU strong safety Jamal Adams is available, I suspect he would be the selection. If neither Fournette or Adams is available there are a handful of other players that will be considered, but FSU running back Dalvin Cook is not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, Cook is an excellent prospect and a first rounder this year, but probably not a top 10 pick. His lackluster combine numbers this week did not help his case any.
Also, keep an eye on Jonathan Allen, if he is available he is the pick. I have no doubt.
So in round 1 it is either Leonard Fournette at pick 8 or the Panthers will look to round 2 for their future ball carrier.
Round 2: Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara
With Dalvin Cook off the board in the mid first round, all eyes turn to Christian McCaffrey for the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey is the only running back that would not be a bit of a reach at the 8th pick of the second round. Some folks say McCaffrey will go in the first round, but he won’t. That kind of over hyped talk happens every year and rarely pans out. Realistically, he will be there for the Panthers in the second round and could be the selection there. At 6’0 and only 200 pounds, McCaffrey would likely be used both as a running back and in the slot as a receiver. This type of x-factor player could be lethal under a dynamic offensive coaching staff. However, under Mike Shula, he could be another underutilized weapon in a sloppy offense. Lets hope not.
Alvin Kamara out of Tennesee would fit in a slightly more traditional running back roll as he has 15 pounds more weight to his smaller frame. Kamara could instantly fit in that Fozzy Whitaker role that the Carolina Panthers have longed to upgrade for a while now. Kamara may be a slight reach here, but his fit would be much better in the Panthers current offense that McCaffrey. This may make more sense (this season anyway).
Unless the Panthers trade down, I don’t see any other running backs that would fit in round 2.
Round 3: Wayne Gallman
If the Panthers have not selected a running back by round three, I suspect Clemson back Wayne Gallman will have his name called by Carolina. Gallman is a play maker that could instantly impact the Panthers offense. He is now listed at 210 pounds, up 10 from his Clemson weight. The ability to quickly put on weight will only help his draft stock. Gallman is known not to shy away from contact and runs like a bigger player. Should he be selected, he instantly would be the second best running back on the roster behind Jonathan Stewart. You can’t ask for much more from a 3rd round selection.