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Carolina Panthers roster worst in NFL after draft, per ESPN

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Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey makes a touchdown against the Washington Football Team at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, November 21, 2021.

Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey makes a touchdown against the Washington Football Team on the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, November 21, 2021.

Knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com

There will not be an event in sports that conjures more hope than a draft.

Fan bases find solace clinging to their respective teams’ picks, hoping for higher days next season. Panthers fans had their glass-half-full expectations dashed last week when ESPN released a post-draft 32-team power poll. About 80 ESPN NFL reporters, analysts, and editors ranked teams based on rosters.

Carolina got here in last.

“I personally wouldn’t have put them thirty second. I feel it’s pretty low,” Pro Football Focus reporter Doug Kyed told the Observer. “I’d put the Texans and Falcons below them simply because I still think the Panthers defense goes to be no less than above average this season.”

The Texans and Falcons are two teams most would rank below Carolina. But are there more?

Comparing NFL rosters isn’t an actual science. Quarterbacks have essentially the most influence, followed by (in no specific order) edge rushers, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, and offensive playmakers (receivers or running backs). Below, we’ll survey the underside 40 percent of the league, or the 13 worst teams.

Bear in mind, the AFC is overloaded with talent. ESPN ranked Philadelphia sixteenth. The subsequent NFC team is San Francisco at No. 9. . Half of the poll’s top 10 teams are from the NFC, but 10 of the underside 19 are also NFC teams. Considering seven teams reach the playoffs from each conference, it’s likely no less than one NFC wild card team finishes with a record below .500.

A weak NFC and a better-than-perceived roster should make Carolina a competitive team this season. Here’s why.

How the Panthers roster compares to others

“It’s completely unfair. It’s disgusting that (ESPN) ranked them at 32,” Draft Network evaluation Ryan Fowler said. “I might argue that last yr the Panthers had my favorite draft. You then come back this yr and also you add guys like Matt Corral, and Ikem Ekwonu, who I feel may very well be potentially the highest tackle in this complete class. There’s just no way for me that you simply rank this roster thirty second.”

Nine teams that ranked above Carolina had fewer 2021 Pro Bowl selections than the Panthers. Stephon Gilmore, who was one in all those Pro Bowlers, signed with Indianapolis this off-season. But a part of roster evaluation is projecting upcoming roles.

Panthers’ second-year cornerback Jaycee Horn returns this season after missing 13 games with a broken foot last yr and can fill Gilmore’s role.

“Horn is one the smoothest, most fluid aggressive, alpha-mentality corners within the league,” Fowler said. “I feel he’s going to be great the following few years. He generally is a dominant corner.”

Of the 13 teams ranked between twentieth and thirty second, only 4 have more players ranked inside Pro Football Focus’s top 30 players at each position. The Texans (zero), Jets, (one), Jaguars (two), Bears (4), Lions (4), Giants (five), and Steelers (five) all have fewer top 30 players at quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive position, linebacker, cornerback and safety.

Pro Football Focus will not be NFL gospel. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and linebacker Eric Kendricks, for instance, each rank outside the highest 30 for his or her respective positions despite top-10 reputations.

Other discrepancies are baked into PFF’s rankings. Saints playmaker Alvin Kamara finished 71st amongst qualified runners and didn’t count toward the Saints’ total of seven top-30 players. Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns was the 111th ranked edge last season despite having more sacks over the past three years than any player drafted in 2019.

Combining variety of Pro Bowlers, with PFF’s top 30 at each position and rating each quarterback’s EPA (expected points added) per dropback created a serviceable evaluation metric.

Christian McCaffrey ranked twelfth amongst qualified running backs in line with PFF. DJ Moore, Austin Corbett, Taylor Moton, Shaq Thompson, and Jeremy Chinn all ranked contained in the top 30 of their respective positions.

“Taking a look at like total over-unders this season, the Panthers usually are not at the underside. Their total is at six wins. 4 other teams have lower (win totals),” Kyed said. ”Vegas is saying there’s still a possibility the Panthers could acquire Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo, moderately than taking a look at their roster at face value on paper.”

Based on Vegas sportsbooks, the Texans, Jets, Falcons, and Seahawks all have lower projected win totals than Carolina. The Seahawks and Jaguars are tied with six predicted wins. The Panthers have more top 30 PFF players and more 2021 Pro Bowlers than all five of those teams.

Making a difference

Quarterbacks make all of the difference within the NFL.

Since 2004, the Super Bowl has been won by a Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, or Matt Stafford. Only Nick Foles and Joe Flacco snuck in Super Bowl wins under those Hall of Famers’ watch.

Winning the Super Bowl oftentimes takes finding a generational quarterback talent. Nonetheless, making the playoffs comes with a much lower bar. Mac Jones and Jalen Hurts each began playoff games last season. In 2021, Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, and Jared Goff also began playoff games. The 49ers reached the NFC championship with Garoppolo last season and made the Super Bowl with him in 2020.

Of the 12 quarterbacks ranked above Sam Darnold in ESPN’s power poll, only the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins performed contained in the top 10 of EPA per dropback. Eight others finished with similar numbers as Darnold. The incumbent starters for Latest Orleans (Jameis Winston), Pittsburgh (Kenny Pickett or Trubisky), and Atlanta (Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder) shouldn’t have EPA data from last season.

QuarterbackEPA/playRank
Cousins (MIN)0.137tenth
Wentz (WAS)0.084seventeenth
Jones (NYG)0.012twenty third
Lawerence (JAX)-0.047twenty sixth
Goff (DET)-0.048twenty seventh
Millis (HOU)-0.090twenty eighth
Darnold (CAR)-0.122twenty ninth
Fields (CHI)-0.0126thirtieth
Wilson (NYJ)-0.139thirty first

The Panthers’ quarterback situation must improve, but their situation is comparable to other quarterback rooms in the underside third of the league. Bear in mind that Garoppolo finished 2021 with a .203 EPA, rating fourth. Mayfield’s .044 ranked twenty first.

Carolina could still add a veteran quarterback before training camp.

Based on roster talent and an uncertain quarterback situation which Carolina shares with 1 / 4 of the league, the Panthers usually are not the worst team within the NFL. Carolina is closer to a wild card team than it’s to picking No. 1 overall in 2023.

Hailing from Minnesota, Ellis L. Williams joined the Observer in October 2021 to cover the Carolina Panthers. Prior, he spent two years reporting on the Browns for Cleveland.com/the Plain Dealer. Having escaped cold winters, he’s thrilled to eat football, hoops, music and flicks inside the Queen City.

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