College Players Carolina Panthers Fans Should Keep an Eye on in Bowl Season

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after a missed field goal by the Ohio State Buckeyes during their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The first series of the Carolina Panthers game this Sunday in Seattle was a perfect metaphor for the 2016 Panthers season. Backup quarterback Derek Anderson got the start after Cam Newton was benched for one drive following a dress code violation. On the first play from scrimmage, Anderson faked the handoff and rolled out of the pocket. He dumped the ball off to Mike Tolbert; the ball hit off Tolbert’s hands and fell right into the defender’s lap for an easy interception. The game did not get any better from here, as Newton only completed 44% of his passes and the defense gave up 534 yards en route to a 40-7 blowout.

College Players Carolina Panthers Fans Should Keep an Eye on in Bowl Season

The only positive thing to fall back on as a Panthers fan is the the fact that, at 4-8, they are in line for a good pick in the upcoming draft. If the season were to end today, Carolina would pick seventh in the 2017 NFL Draft. Playoffs are an afterthought at this point, and it is time to look forward to the future. Coming off a Super Bowl run in 2016 and a 15-1 regular season this is hard to accept. All things considered, it is simply time for the Panthers to move on.

As the College Football Playoff field and bowl schedule is announced, we can get a good idea of who to keep an eye on as Panthers fans. Offensive lineman and secondary players are obvious needs moving forward. With the uncertain future of aging Charles Johnson and Jonathan Stewart, it is not only possible, but likely that edge defenders and running backs will be on the radar as well. Here’s a brief overview of some players that Panthers fans and Panthers executives should be watching during college football bowl season.

First round targets

*Projected pick: 5-10 overall

Jabrill Peppers, DB – Michigan

Peppers is one of the most fun players to watch in all of college football. While Peppers is an athletic freak, he doesn’t really have a defined position. He has played wildcat quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, safety, cornerback, and kick returner while at Michigan. Likely he projects as a safety or corner in the NFL, but the guy simply makes plays. He could step in for Carolina as a safety or corner day one. Peppers is expected to be one of the top performers at the NFL combine and will likely be a top ten pick. Seven (where the Panthers stand right now) may not be high enough to snag Peppers, but expect David Gettleman to be ecstatic if he falls.

Marlon Humphrey, CB – Alabama

Humphrey can do it all. He has the size you love to see at corner (6’1″). He’s excellent in coverage, he has great instincts and ball skills, and he has no issue using his size and strength to be a strong physical tackler. All of this are on display in his USC game film. Understandably, the biggest question here is whether the Panthers would want to invest such a high pick in a corner. They did draft three just last year. However, it is still a position of need and Humphrey could be a huge boost to the secondary.

Jamal Adams, S – LSU

Adams has no problem talking about his friendship and everything he’s learned from former LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu. You can see it in his game. Many believe he is a better pure safety than Peppers. One unnamed scout had this to say about his versatility: “Enough range to play free safety, enough toughness and strength to play in the box.” This shows, as he has 6.5 tackles for loss from the safety position this season, and has been matching up in coverage against some of the best tight ends in the SEC. In LSU’s game against Alabama, O.J. Howard – widely respected as the best tight end in college football – was held to just one catch for -3 yards. Adams was matched up on him nearly all game.

Cam Robinson, OT – Alabama

Robinson is clearly at a position of need. The Panther’s have had one of the worst offensive lines in the league for a number of years, especially on the edges. Carolina’s pass protection is currently ranked 22nd by DVOA, and Cam Newton has been hit more times than any other quarterback since he has been in the league. Unfortunately, this is not a draft deep in talent at the tackle position. Robinson would step in and likely start at one of the tackle positions immediately. As he is currently projected to go somewhere in the 12-25 range, Carolina would likely trade down to get him rather than take him top ten.

Early 2nd Round Targets

D’Onta Foreman, RB – Texas

With all the hype around Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey, D’Onta Forman has been the best running back in college football this year. He broke Earl Campbell‘s Texas record by rushing for 100 or more yards in 12 consecutive games. It’s unlikely that Carolina would want to spend a top ten pick on an running back, but they’re going to need to find Jonathon Stewart’s future replacement at some point.

Ryan Anderson, Edge Defender – Alabama
Jourdan Louis, CB – Michigan

Louis is a very different corner than Marlon Humphrey. He’s the definition of undersized, at 5’10” 176 pounds. However, he is simply a lockdown guy in coverage. He has great footwork and just makes plays. Last season he was third in the nation with 20 pass break-ups. Through his first 76 coverage snaps this season, quarterbacks had a rating of 0.0 against him. That is simply absurd. Some team is going to get a great coverage corner out of this player if they can overlook his size limitations.

Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin

Potential Late Round Fliers

Chad Wheeler, OT – USC
James Conner, RB – Pittsburgh

Conner is projecting as a fourth to sixth rounder, but would likely be a second or third rounder if not for health concerns. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about one year ago However, after going through treatment he has racked up over 1,300 total yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

T.J. Watt, Edge Defender – Wisconsin
Adam Bisnowaty, OT – Pittsburgh