First Round: Kelvin Benjamin, WR
Stats against Saints: 2 receptions, 10 targets, 18 yards
Season Totals: 40 receptions, 78 targets, 589 yards, five touchdowns
Analysis: This was one of Benjamin’s worst games of the season as he struggled to get involved for most of the night. He only finished with two receptions but was targeted often, particularly in the red zone. One of Benjamin’s biggest mistakes came in the first half when he ran a crossing route in the end zone that was certainly catchable but he could not bring in.
Second Round: Kony Ealy, DE
Stats against Saints: 1 solo tackle, 1 QB hit
Season Totals: 5 solo tackles, 8 total tackles, one sack
Analysis: The Panthers second round pick has started to make his presence known on the football field. He got his first career sack against Seattle and was close to his second Thursday night against the Saints. The transition from college to the NFL has not been easy for the pass rusher but hopefully the past two games point to a bigger second half of his rookie season.
Third Round: Trai Turner, OG
Stats against Saints: None/Out with injury
Season Totals: Three starts at G
Analysis: The rookie guard has missed the last two weeks with injury and the offensive line has struggled. Turner played well for most of the season, splitting time with Fernando Velasco before getting the starting right guard position against Chicago. He started the next two games after that before going down with an injury against Green Bay. The Panthers offensive line would get a huge boost from a healthy Turner returning to the starting line-up.
Fourth Round: Tre Boston, S
Stats against Saints: 4 solo, 7 total tackles
Season Totals: 7 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 12 total tackles
Analysis: The rookie safety got his first start against New Orleans, filling in for an injured Thomas Decoud. The review has been mixed as Boston has shown flashes of being a good player but looks inexperienced in pass coverage. The flashes he showed against New Orleans were how strong he is at the point of attack and his tackling ability. He finished second on the Panthers defense in tackles and that kind of performance should get him more playing time the second half of the year.
Fifth Round: Bene Benwikere, CB
Stats against Saints: None/Out with Injury
Season Totals: 7 solo tackles, 8 total tackles, 2 passes defended, one fumble recovery
Analysis: The Panthers secondary is really missing injured nickelback Bene Benwikere. He has been dealing with an ankle injury for a few weeks now and the Panthers have struggled to find a replacement. The team first looked to Charles Godfrey but he struggled trying to fill this role and was eventually released. A return of Benwikere against the Eagles would be a huge boost for this defense.
Undrafted: Philly Brown, WR
Stats against Saints: None/Out with Injury
Season Totals: 11 receptions, 113 yards, 22.8 yards per kickoff return, 11.4 yards per punt return
Analysis: Aside from the Steelers game when Brown had seven receptions for 66 yards, he has been a non-factor in this offense. He has missed the last two games though with a concussion but when he does return it is hard to envision him being more than the team’s primary kickoff and punt return man.
Undrafted: David Foucault, OT
Stats against Saints: Start at LT, allowed two sacks, one QB hit, and six QB hurries (according to Pro Football Focus)
Season Totals: One start at LT, allowed three QB sacks, one QB hit, nine QB hurries (according to Pro Football Focus)
Analysis: The undrafted rookie from Montreal had his”Welcome to the NFL” moment against New Orleans. I am sure when the Panthers signed Foucault in the offseason they did not envision him having to start at left tackle by Week 9. Obviously the plan changed due to Byron Bell’s injury and Foucault was the next man up. There is a lot to like about Foucault and his future but he is a developmental tackle and will need practice time before he can be expected to be relied on as a starter.
Undrafted: Andrew Norwell, OG
Stats against Saints: Start at LG, allowed four QB hurries (according to Pro Football Focus)
Season Totals: Two starts at LG, allowed one QB sack, five QB hurries (according to Pro Football Focus)
Analysis: Andrew Norwell has started the last two games at left guard for Carolina and has looked better than Foucault, but also isn’t ready to be relied on as a starter. Against New Orleans, Norwell had his worst game (-1.4 rating by Pro Football Focus) and this could have been due to having Foucault playing next to him and not veteran Byron Bell. Both players will provide good depth for the Panthers offensive line in the coming years but will struggle this year if asked to play extended time.