It’s better to be interesting than boring.
At least that’s the motto the Carolina Panthers seemed to adopt at the NFL Draft this past weekend.
The Panthers took Shaq Thompson, a linebacker out of Washington, with the 25th pick, and Devin Funchess, a wide receiver out of Michigan, with the 41st pick.
“All drafts remain to be seen how they really truly turn out, but Carolina, I’ll start right out there,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They’ve won back-to-back division titles, yet people still want to take a good look – and I had questions, too. Shaq Thompson in the first round was rich for my blood.”
Thompson, at 6-0, 228 pounds, wasn’t exactly the biggest linebacker in the draft, but the Panthers hope to use him in pass coverage, especially against tight ends.
“He’s an excellent athlete,” Davis said. “I think he’s an outside linebacker. I call him a will linebacker. You cover up and let him run and chase and hit so he doesn’t have to take on blocks.”
Funchess, meanwhile, didn’t come cheap. The Panthers traded their second-, third and sixth-round picks to move up 16 spots and grab the physical, 6-5 wide receiver.
“Devin Funchess can be a matchup nightmare,” Davis said. “Essentially he is the bookend to Kelvin Benjamin, so I see what they’re doing with that. But it’ll be interesting to see if Funchess is worth the actual trade up. That was the one that caught my eye right away, was Carolina’s (draft), as far as being intriguing ad interesting. And if it hits, it looks fantastic. But I think a lot of us have questions off the top.”
Of course, Cam Newton probably won’t complain about having another large receiver in his arsenal, especially after entering last season as arguably the most weapon-less quarterback in football. This year, that honor may go to Marcus Mariota, who doesn’t exactly have an imposing wide receiver corps with which to work.
Has Mariota been put in a position to succeed?
“He’s been put in a difficult position,” Davis said. “It’s not just the personnel. It’s him adapting to the pro-style game. I think Ken Whisenhunt will prove – and has to prove – his worth as a coach. He’s going to have to bring him along in a different way than he’s had to do other quarterbacks – and to me, that means putting in stuff that makes Marcus Mariota comfortable: some of the zone-read plays, moving him around in and out of the pocket, things of that nature. But it’s going to be also incumbent on Marcus Mariota to up his game and adapt to what the pros do as well. They’ve got to kind of meet each other midway.
“I think that they tried to help him out in the draft,” Davis continued. “Dorial Green-Beckham is a polarizing figure, let’s face it. If it hits and he’s on his game, this is a top-15 talent – and I’m saying top-15 in the entire draft – that they got in the second round. But he comes with a lot of buyer beware and a lot of red flags that go along with it.”
The Titans also drafted Utah offensive tackle Jeremiah Poutasi to help protect Mariota and Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler to take some pressure off of him. Davis called Fowler an “instant day one starter.”
Whether the same can be said about Mariota remains to be seen.
“They’ve got (some good draft picks) and a few pieces coming back out wide, which helps him out a little bit,” Davis said. “The biggest one is just the transition of Marcus Mariota’s personality into an NFL huddle, which is something he hasn’t had to do at Oregon.”