Carolina Panthers 2017 NFL Draft retrospective

Carolina Panthers, NFL Draft Retrospective

How should the Carolina Panthers feel about their 2017 NFL Draft class after three years? We take a deep dive into it.

Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers needed an upgrade at running back, as well as weapons at wide receiver. Special teams were not absent from this conversation either. They also needed a reliable kicker. The defense wasn’t a major issue, but they certainly needed depth. They certainly took care of the running back spot, adding a tremendous playmaker from Stanford by the name of Christian McCaffrey. They also addressed their need for a fast wide receiver, drafting Curtis Samuel out of Ohio State.

Taylor Moton came by way of Western Michigan, and the goal was to add depth to the offensive line. Daeshon Hall and Corn Elder added depth to the defense, with one serving the edge position while the other aimed to help the secondary.

A fullback by the name of Alex Armah was taken with the next pick after Elder, as the Panthers continued to focus on adding strength and grit to the running game. Finally, Harrison Butker showed tremendous promise as a kicker at the collegiate level, and he was slated to help the Carolina Panthers in the special-teams department.

Original Grade

FanSided: B

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 8)

Christian McCaffrey

Running back, Cardinal

Entering the 2017 NFL Draft, expectations were general manager Dave Gettleman would target a skilled player despite his well-known affection for a lineman. With veteran running back Jonathan Stewart aging, the team desperately needed a back who could immediately contribute and Stanford product Christian McCaffrey was the perfect answer.

In a limited role during his rookie season, McCaffrey displayed his brilliance and ability to impact football games. Just a few years later, his pass-catching abilities combined with being able to literally carry the workload week in and week out have proven doubters wrong. McCaffrey played at an MVP level in 2019 and should continue contributing to the Panthers offense well into the future.

Grade: A+

Round 2 (No. 40)

Curtis Samuel

Wide receiver, Buckeyes

In an attempt to surround quarterback Cam Newton with offensive weapons, the Panthers turned to Ohio State hybrid contributor Curtis Samuel. Making an impact as both a pass catcher and out of the backfield, Gettleman’s commitment to adding offensive production seemed legitimate.

However, a slow start and injuries limited Samuel’s production as he played in only nine games during his rookie season and never found the end zone. His resiliency boosted expectations as Samuel appears to be developing into a more consistent threat with career highs in receiving touchdowns (6), total receptions (54), yards (627) and nearly double the number of targets from his sophomore season last year.

Grade: B

Round 2 (No. 64)

Taylor Moton

Offensive tackle, Broncos

After questions about the health of offensive lineman Michael Oher, who played just three games in the season prior, Gettleman finally pulled the trigger on a lineman. Initially viewed as an option to play at either the tackle or guard position, Western Michigan lineman Taylor Moton was tabbed to compete for a starting job.

Working his way permanently into a right tackle position, Moton has become one of the more consistent linemen up front for the Panthers. Starting all but a single game at his position over the past two seasons, Moton enters the final year of his rookie deal with Carolina in 2020, looking for a big future payday.

Grade: A

Round 3 (No. 77)

Daeshon Hall

Defensive end, Aggies

The other half of a prominent Texas A&M pass rush, Daeshon Hall lined up opposite 2017 first-overall pick Myles Garrett in college. Projected to be a new cog in the Panthers revitalized defense, Hall played in just a single game during his rookie campaign before injuries derailed his professional career.

After being placed on injured reserve in early October (2017), Hall was waived prior to regular season play a year later. He bounced around between practice squads for San Francisco, Houston, and Philadelphia before suffering a torn ACL in Week 17 of the regular season.

Grade: C-

Round 5 (No. 152)

Corn Elder

Cornerback, Hurricanes

Corn Elder was a controversial selection, being viewed as an undersized and underdeveloped corner but one with a huge upside. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him off the playing field as a rookie but Elder responded by seeing action in 13 games during his second season.

Eventually, he was released but then re-signed nearly two-months later in an effort to shore up the Carolina secondary. Elder, already in his second stint with the Panthers within two-years, may receive an opportunity depending on what James Bradberry and others decide this offseason.

Grade: C

Round 6 (No.192)

Alex Armah

Fullback, Wolves

Alex Armah, Fullback, West Georgia

When not rescuing his personal vehicle parked in a garage from would-be car thieves, Alex Armah serves as a prototypical fullback and special teams guru for the Panthers. The West Georgia product replaced former fullback Mike Tolbert and he may well surpass the Carolina backfield trailblazer if given a few more opportunities.

Armah played multiple positions on both sides of the football before joining Carolina. His versatility makes designing offensive plays even more enjoyable but how he’ll be used under new coach Matt Rhule remains to be seen.

Grade: B

Round 7 (No. 233)

Harrison Butker

Kicker, Yellow Jackets

The Panthers faced a difficult decision between electing to continue with veteran kicker Graham Gano or allowing Georgia Tech rookie Harrison Butker an opportunity. Initially, both were kept on the roster but Butker was quickly poached off the Panthers practice squad and is now a Super Bowl champion.

Developing into a prominent special teams option for the Chiefs, Carolina nailed their final pick but ultimately made the wrong choice when selecting their primary kicker. The trajectories of both Gano and Butker have been complete opposites since the Panthers parted ways with the latter.

Grade: A+

McCaffrey has undoubtedly become the most important piece of that class. He has put the Panthers run game on his back, amassing 2,920 yards and 24 touchdowns in three seasons of play. He has also proven to be an effective receiving back. Catching 300 receptions for 2,523 yards, he has definitely fit the bill of a multi-purpose back to this point. In what has been a couple of rough seasons for the Panthers, he has been one of the few bright spots.

Samuel has shown flashes of potential, but health has always been an issue for him. He has caught 108 passes for 1,236 yards in a three-year career to this point. Last year was the best season of his career. He caught 54 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns. This was the year that we began to see him truly find his form. He has been another huge piece of the 2017 draft class. It’s just tough because McCaffrey is ahead of everybody else.

Moton has been an unsung hero for the Panthers on the line. Mouton has played in all 16 games in each season throughout his three-year career. He has started all 16 games the last two seasons. The offensive line has been a weakness for the Panthers. He has helped fill the void.

Now, Hall, Armah, and Butker weaken the class. Both Hall and Butker are no longer with the team. That is what keeps this class from being in the B- to A- range. This class is very top-heavy. Thankfully for the Panthers, the top of the class has produced.

McCaffrey and Samuel have been the crown jewels of the class, while Moton has been a steady presence on the line. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the Panthers 2017 class progresses.

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