#KeepPounding: Panthers make history, use all 7 picks on defensive players

CHARLOTTE — (AP) The Carolina Panthers used all seven of their draft picks to bolster a defense that allowed 29.4 points per game last season, the most in franchise history.

It’s the first time since the AFL-NFL merger that a team has used all seven picks on defense. The 1985 Browns used all seven picks on offense. Carolina selected defensive tackle Derrick Brown from Auburn in the first round and Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn in the second.

The Panthers added Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride, West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson, Baylor defensive tackle Bravvion Roy and Florida International cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver on day three of the draft.

Draft Updates:

Pick 113: The Carolina Panthers picked cornerback Troy Pride Jr. from Notre Dame in the fourth-round.

Draft Day 2 Updates:

Pick 64: The Panthers have selected safety Jeremy Chinn out of Southern Illinois at No. 64 overall in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Carolina traded with Seattle in order to acquire the pick.

Chinn was a kind of wild card in the Southern Illinois scheme, aligning in different spots within the defense — playing at safety and cornerback throughout his time in college. He's a two-time first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honoree, and was a consensus All-American in 2019 after a successful senior season. In his last year at Southern Illinois, Chinn recorded 71 total tackles — 2.5 for loss — with four interceptions, seven passes defensed, and a sack.

In all, Chinn recorded 243 total tackles, 13 interceptions, 31 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in his time at Southern Illinois.

Pick 38: The Panthers have selected defensive end Yetu Gross-Matos out of Penn State at No. 38 overall in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

A two-year starter, Gross-Matos recorded 19.0 sacks and 37.0 tackles for loss in 38 games. He was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree in both 2018 and 2019, racking up 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss as a junior this past season.

New England has selected safety Kyle Dugger out of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory with the 37th overall pick in the second round.

The Patriots’ pick marked the first time an NFL team has selected a Division II safety during the first three rounds since the Chicago Bears took Danieal Manning in the second round in 2006.

Dugger was a versatile defender and special teams player during his five-year career at the North Carolina school. He has 10 career interceptions and returned six punts for touchdowns.

Panthers choose DT Brown over LB Simmons with No. 7 overall pick

The Carolina Panthers selected defensive tackle Derrick Brown from Auburn with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft.

Who will your favorite team pick in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft tonight? WATCH Day 2 of the virtual event LIVE at 7 p.m. on Channel 9

Brown is expected to bolster a unit that was ravaged in free agency and in dire need of an upgrade.

The 6-foot-5, 326-pound Brown was a first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC selection as a senior.

Carolina was torn between taking Brown and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the No. 7 pick, but general manager Marty Hurney says the Panthers wanted to begin building up front on the defensive line.

Coach Matt Rhule said “his spirit comes through,” Channel 9 reporter DaShawn Brown tweeted.

Impressed with how grateful Brown was to his defensive line coach, Rhule said successful people are grateful people.

Falcons bolster secondary with Clemson CB Terrell at No. 16

The Atlanta Falcons moved to bolster their secondary by taking Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell with the No. 16 pick in the NFL draft.

Following the release of top corner Desmond Trufant in a salary-cap move, the Falcons had an obvious need.

There was speculation that Atlanta would try to trade up to the No. 9 pick to grab the highest-rated college cornerback, Florida’s CJ Henderson. But Jacksonville held on to that choice and grabbed Henderson, leaving the Falcons to look elsewhere.

Terrell wound up being the choice.

The Atlanta native joins a youthful group that includes Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield,

Who will Panthers select to round out their 2020 draft class?

The Panthers will continue to look to upgrade their defense in the NFL draft after losing nine starters from last year’s unit, including five-time All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Edge rusher Mario Addison and top cornerback James Bradberry left via free agency, while veteran safety Eric Reid was released.

The only returning defensive tackle is two-time Pro Bowler Kawann Short, and he only played two games last season because of an injury.

[NFL Draft-A-Thon benefits COVID-19 relief charities, front-line medical workers and more]

The only returning starters from last season are linebacker Shaq Thompson and safety Tre Boston. That leaves the Panthers with some significant holes to fill.

State of the Offense

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension last week that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid running back and the face of the Panthers franchise.

He earned the contract extension after becoming only the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a single season.

A New-Look Team

Cam Newton is no longer with the team after nine years, but former New Orleans Saint Teddy Bridgewater will be replacing QB1.

[End of an era: Panthers release Newton]

General manager Marty Hurney said he’s impressed with Bridgewater’s quick feet, throwing ability and, most importantly, his leadership.

Starters Greg Olsen and Jarius Wright are gone. Daryl Williams, Greg Van Roten and Trai Turner are also no longer with the team.

The Panthers also signed XFL standout PJ Walker, who led the short-lived league in passing yards and touchdowns. He also played for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule at Temple.

The Panthers traded Trai Turner for lineman Russell Okung, who played for the San Diego Chargers. Hurney said Okung’s greatest strength is being a veteran.

The GM hopes Okung can help Greg Little grow into a weekly starter.

The Panthers also added wideout Robby Anderson. He was kicked out of Temple for academic reasons, but he fought his way back on the team in part because of vocal support from the head coach of the Owls at the time – Rhule.


The 2020 NFL Draft

Follow Channel 9′s Sports Team on Twitter for updates:


[ESPN and NFL Network will combine for NFL draft telecast]

The other three times the Panthers had a top 10 pick, it worked out well for the team, drafting Kerry Collins, Julius Peppers and Cam Newton. All three of those were taken in the top 5.

If we step back and look at the Panthers’ history with top 10 picks, it's been good, too.

In addition to the three players mentioned, add Christian McCaffrey, Luke Kuechly, Jordan Gross and Tim Biakabutuka. Every player on the list was selected to a Pro Bowl except for Biakabutuka.

Now in Hurney’s second stint with the team, his two first-round picks are making a big difference. He drafted DJ Moore in 2018 and Brian Burns in 2019.

Burns finished the season with 7 ½ sacks despite an injured hand most of the year. Moore, who is on the offensive side, had a breakout season. He became the youngest player in franchise history to have a 1,000-yard receiving campaign.

The 2020 NFL Draft will take place virtually, from April 23-25.

Since players won’t be able to walk on stage after they get drafted, EA Sports is creating their moment for them. It will show the players walking up to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell.

There are 255 picks instead of 256 (the yearly maximum) since the Arizona Cardinals forfeited a fifth-round choice by selecting in last year’s compensatory draft.

Panthers Picks:

  • Round 1: Pick 7 (Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn)
  • Round 2: Pick 38
  • Round 3: Pick 69
  • Round 4: Pick 113
  • Round 5: Pick 152
  • Round 6: Pick 184
  • Round 7: Pick 221

The No. 1 overall pick of the draft was LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Cincinnati Bengals wasted no time grabbing the Heisman Trophy winner.

[NFL GMs think the remote draft will alter the trading scene]

Burrow’s teammate, Thaddeus Moss, Mallard Creek grad and son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, ranks among this year’s top tight end prospects.

Channel 9’s shortlist of Panthers’ draft picks:

  • Derrick Brown
  • Isaiah Simmons
  • Jeff Okudah

If they trade down:

  • Javon Kinlaw
  • CJ Henderson

More local athletes to watch for:

Alex Highsmith: The UNC Charlotte linebacker/ defensive end went from walk-on to mid-round pick and came back to campus after the combine to be an intern for the strength coach.

Benny Lemay: The UNC Charlotte running back and former Butler High School running back had two high-profile recruits as brothers, but only had one offer out of college. Benny is motivated by that to become a likely late-round draft pick.

Cam Clark: The UNC Charlotte outside tackle is currently under quarantine with his best friend/twin sister, who has been his biggest cheerleader his entire life.

Robby Anderson: The new Carolina Panthers wide receiver has a strong relationship with his older brother, who is an aspiring rapper. The two went through many highs and lows growing up.

Julian Okwara: The Notre Dame defensive end and former Ardrey Kell Big 22 Player to Watch moved to the U.S. from Nigeria at the age of 12. His father remained in Nigeria running the family business. His mother raised the four children in Charlotte and both made incredible sacrifices for their family.