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  1. Another Carolina Panthers draft weekend has come and gone, and there is much to be discussed. I realize not everyone spends their weekend watching the draft, so here are the important beats for you in case you are cornered at the office watercooler by folks wanting your opinion on the draft. View image | gettyimages.com Round 1 - Shaq Thompson - LB - Washington The Panthers selected a linebacker in round 1? Yes, yes they did, and here is why... Last season the Panthers defense improved dramatically when they put safety Colin Jones in at the nickel position. When a safety drops down to nickel, the Panthers call is Buffalo (think buffalo nickel is a large nickel). They love this defensive package so much that they ran it 80% of the time in the 2014 playoffs. The downside, however, was Colin Jones being not too great against the run. Enter Shaq Thompson. If you had to draw on paper a guy that would be absolutely perfect in that Buffalo spot, you would draw Shaq. A tackling machine at the line against the run, and able to cover as well. This will allow the Panthers to defend well against the run and the pass without making as many substitutions. Shaq Thompson will change how the Panthers approach a game defensively, and you can't ask for more than that from a first round selection. He will start. View image | gettyimages.com Round 2 - Devin Funchess - WR - Michigan The Panthers traded their 3rd and 6th round selections to move up in the second round where they grabbed Devin Funchess. Funchess is roughly the same size as Kelvin Benjamin. The trade happened because Panthers GM Dave Gettleman had Funchess ranked as a first round selection and didn't think he would last until the Panthers pick. Having Benjamin, Funchess, and Greg Olsen together on the field will present a real issue for opposing defenses. One can't help but think that this combination was formed to combat Seattle and their tall secondary, possibly getting the Panthers over the hump and into the NFC Championship. View image | gettyimages.com Round 4 - Daryl Williams - OT - Oklahoma Once again the Panthers trade up, this time costing them a 5th and a 7th round selection. Daryle Williams is known as a massive road grading tackle. He is 327 pounds of nasty attitude on the field. Look for the Panthers to initially put him in at right tackle with the possibility of moving him to the left later in his career. This season he will play next to Trai Turner where they will be the best run blocking right side the Panthers have seen in years. Improving the run game ultimately is the best way to protect QB Cam Newton. If Newton is not caught in 3rd and long situations frequently, defenses cannot aggressively pass rush him as often. Last season Newton faced an ungodly number of 3rd and longs, and paid the price physically. Williams will go a long way in remedying that. image credit Jon Shapley Round 5a - David Mayo - LB - Texas State Another linebacker? Sure enough. Mayo was a highly productive middle linebacker at Texas State, which is the number one thing David Gettleman looks for in late round prospects. He isn't as concerned with 40 times or cone drills as other GMs. This is how the Panthers landed Bene Benwikere and Tre Boston last season. Production, production, production. Mayo will initially play on special teams, an area of great need. Last season the Panthers special teams unity cost them games. Mayo will be given the opportunity to earn a backup role to Luke Kuechly. For Mayo to come into the Panthers and learn behind the greatest middle linebacker in the NFL is an ideal situation for him. Should he develop into a solid middle linebacker he will become trade material for the Panthers. View image | gettyimages.com Round 5b - Cameron Artis-Payne - RB - Auburn Dave Gettleman told us he would be drafting a running back, and he was true to his word. Artis-Payne has decent size (5'10 and 212lbs) and nice footwork. He seems to hit the open holes quickly, something Deangelo Williams struggled with the past few seasons. Payne becomes the closest thing to Jonathan Stewart on the roster and earns an instant roster spot because of that fact. Not to be lost in the mix, Artis-Payne is also solid in pass protection, something that is a requirement in the Panthers single back formations. So why all the trades? Many Panther fans were extremely excited with the prospect of 9 total draft picks this season. Dave Gettleman? Not so much. Because of the huge success from last year's draft, Gettleman knew that the likelihood of 9 rookies making this year's Carolina Panthers team was slim to none. Solution? Trade up, target your guys, and come away with 5 solid players that will make the team. Don't worry, this is not Marty Hurney being loosey goosey with the draft picks, this is Dave Gettleman calculating and executing. Big difference. In short.... bup bup bup bup bup.
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