Carolina's primary needs entering the 2019 NFL Draft were easy to identify - edge rusher and offensive line.
Drafting Florida State pass rusher Brian Burns at No. 16 overall was arguably my favorite pick of the entire first round. Doubling down with investments on edge rushers and selecting Alabama's Christian Miller at pick No. 115 overall was a great move on early Day 3 to bolster the depth of the Panther's arsenal of pass rushers. I love the way Carolina addressed its need for pass rushers with versatile prospects that have high ceilings.
Let's examine general manager Marty Hurney's 2019 Draft Haul in totality:
Round 1, Pick No. 16: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Round 2, Pick No. 37: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Round 3, Pick No. 100: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
Round 4, Pick No. 115: Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama
Round 5, Pick No. 154: Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida
Round 6, Pick No. 212: Dennis Daley, OT, South Carolina
Round 7, Pick No. 237: Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia
For as much as I like the assets used on edge rushers, I do not feel the same about how Carolina attempted to improve its offensive line with pick No. 37.
MY PANTHERS DRAFT MULLIGAN: OT GREG LITTLE FOR OKLAHOMA OT CODY FORD OR KANSAS STATE OL DALTON RISNER
Carolina will go as far as Cam Newton can take them and Newton will go as far as his protection holds up. Signing Matt Paradis and bringing back Daryl Williams were critical moves to help fortify the starting offensive line prior to the Draft. With that said, concerns where still present. Williams is coming off injury and his value on the free agent market wasn’t what many perceived it could be, resulting in him signing a one-year prove-it deal. Greg Van Roten was the scheduled starter at left guard, a position in need of an upgrade. Overall, the depth of the unit was weak and it made sense for Carolina to use multiple selections on offensive linemen in the 2019 Draft.
A premium investment used on an offensive tackle could presumably upgrade the offensive line in two spots, considering a move to guard would be likely for Taylor Moton in that scenario. I expected one of Carolina’s top picks to be used to bolster things in front of Newton, but Little certainly wasn't the player I would have selected.
A five-star recruit, Little became a starter very early in his Rebel's career. Little was an effective blocker as a senior and a First-Team All-SEC selection. With that said, his results were much better than his process and I have concerns about how he will adapt to the NFL. On my personal big board, Little was my 157th ranked prospect in the class. By comparison, Risner was No. 21 and Ford No. 33 on my board.
Most of my concerns with Little stem from balance and body control which is often difficult for offensive lineman to overcome in the NFL. While it’s good for lineman to set a wide base, Little’s borders on too wide at times and inhibits his ability to redirect and anchor. His weight gets too far forward, leading to folding at the waist and over-extending. His body control on the move disappoints and his overall consistency to play with proper bend leaves much to be desired.
I like Little’s foot quickness, but his inconsistent balance robs himself of mobility. I like his natural power but playing with poor leverage steals functional strength. An investment in Little is believing in his blend of size, length and athletic ability and betting on yourself to develop him.
While Little was pretty far down on my offensive tackle rankings, Ford and Risner truly standout as better options in my opinion. On top of them having superior physical skill sets and film, Ford/Risner truly offer versatility having both spent time at tackle and on the interior offensive line. While not necessarily a bad thing, Little has exclusively played left tackle in college with 29 career starts under his belt. He's been tested against the top pass rushers in college football, but he has quite a few technical improvements and bad habits to get corrected.
I'm not saying Little can't become a productive NFL starter, he is just more of a project than a top-40 selection should represent, especially considering the alternatives on the Board. In what feels like a season that head coach Ron Rivera is on the hot seat, Little needs to become an immediate impact starter at left tackle, protecting Newton's blindside and I have doubts that he can become that right away.