Inside The Panthers

Draft worked out for Carolina Panthers GM Gettleman

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMay 11, 2014 

NFL Combine Football

The Carolina Panthers’ fifth-round draft pick, Bene’ Benwikere had a vertical leap of 40.5 inches at the NFL combine and could be the starting nickel as a rookie.

MICHAEL CONROY — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman entered the NFL draft needing a wide receiver, left tackle, cornerback and an IT guy to accompany him to Worcester, Mass.

Three out of four isn’t bad.

Gettleman needed tech support to make sure there were no snags as he Skyped in to the Panthers’ draft room during Saturday’s final four rounds from a hotel in Worcester, where he attended his son’s college graduation in the morning.

Other than a couple of moments of choppy reception, Gettleman said there were no problems with the wireless set-up.

“It works,” Gettleman said. “They got to see my handsome face, and I got to see theirs.”

For the most part, the Panthers’ draft worked, as well.

Gettleman grabbed the big receiver he wanted in the first round in Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder with a build like Cam Newton and a wingspan like Greg Hardy.

Southern California’s Marqise Lee, who also was available when the Panthers picked 28th, is a more polished receiver than Benjamin, but he’s 5 inches shorter and nearly 50 pounds lighter than Benjamin.

For Gettleman, a collector of hog mollies, it was an easy call.

The Panthers waited until the fifth round to draft a cornerback, a ball-hawker from San Jose State named Bene’ Benwikere. The 5-11, 195-pound Benwikere, who had a vertical leap of 40.5 inches at the combine, could be the starting nickel as a rookie.

Gettleman never did get around to taking a tackle.

While a number of analysts gave Morgan Moses to the Panthers in their first-round mock drafts, the Panthers were not enamored with the Virginia offensive tackle.

Apparently, no other teams were, either – at least not early in the draft. Moses waited until the third round before the Redskins grabbed him with the 66th pick.

The Panthers didn’t have an anti-Moses bias. They weren’t crazy about any of the tackles not named Matthews, Robinson, Lewan or Martin – the top four tackles who were gone by the 16th pick.

“I’m not a check-box guy. ‘We need this position so we’re just going to go draft that guy, draft that position,’ ” Gettleman said. “I just don’t think it’s prudent.”

So the Panthers will head to Spartanburg for training camp with Byron Bell and Nate Chandler as the candidates at left tackle.

I don’t have a problem with this: The odds were against Gettleman finding his left tackle of the future so late in the first round.

Maybe Bell or Chandler develops. Maybe Gettleman takes a tackle next year.

We know how he feels about wide bodies.

“I learned from (Giants coach) Tom (Coughlin), big men allow you to compete,” Gettleman said.

Counting Benjamin, the Panthers used their first three picks on big guys. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy was a second-round pick with a first-round grade.

A lot of draft experts chastised the Panthers for the Ealy pick because it wasn’t a position of need. Given the money the Panthers are paying Hardy and Charles Johnson, they might need a pass-rusher sooner than people think.

I liked the third-round pick of Louisiana State guard Trai Turner, who ran virtually the same 40 time as Ealy despite an ample midsection.

Gettleman says Turner is tough and nasty. Those are two traits we haven’t seen yet from Edmund Kugbila, the guard Gettleman drafted in the fourth round last year. In fairness, we haven’t seen much of the injured Kugbila period.

The other Trai/Tre/Trey the Panthers drafted seemed like more of a reach – North Carolina safety Tre Boston in the fourth round.

I get the Panthers’ need for safety depth with Charles Godfrey moving to nickel, but they might have found one with a stronger track record of keeping receivers in front of him.

If nothing else, it gave the Massachusetts-bred Gettleman a chance to take a Boston kid.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service