2014 Depth Chart: Carolina Panthers

A look at the depth and quality of each position on the roster for the 2014 Carolina Panthers.

| 3 years ago

2014 Depth Chart: Carolina Panthers

2014 depth update CAR

[Chart last updated: 7/7/14]


•  Truthfully, Khaled and I had Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart the other way round. I think Newton’s short range passing is still too inaccurate to rate more than an average overall grade but he felt his running ability and deep passing outweighed that issue. Alternatively, Khaled thought I was being too generous to Stewart because of his injuries. I countered that the grade isn’t about injuries, it’s about likely production and, if not injured, Stewart nearly always delivers in that regard. In the end we decided both should be given the benefit of any doubt and everyone’s a winner!

•  Jerricho Cotchery a good starter you question. We’ll stand by the courage of our convictions and state both of us believe he’s been one of the more underrated players of the last five years. Barring one dodgy year in Jets land when he played through a hip injury, his biggest error has been allowing himself to be buried on the Steelers’ depth chart. He does whatever you need and does the most important thing you can ask of any player – deliver.

•  The biggest question I’m expecting from Panther fans here is why Charles Johnson isn’t rated higher. Let me pre-empt that with my answer. In 2010 he was sensational (a +37.7 grade) and was rightly rewarded with a huge contract. In the three seasons since then he’s graded a +29.7 combined – good but a long way off that career year. He’s a fine player, but not the exceptional one that was promised.

•  All the corners have a similar M.O.. They’ve all flashed talent but failed to deliver on anything like a consistent basis. By way of example Melvin White had a good first game (vs. the Giants), got promoted and fell away not long after that. Of the veterans my guess is Josh Thomas is the one with most chance to come through. He’s had some poor games but nothing truly disastrous and could still come through.


Roster Battles

1.  Right Guard

Garry Williams’ last real action came in 2012 where he played a balance of bad and good games that ended up somewhere in the middle. He did enough to win the starting role for 2013 in camp but was then tore his ACL 15 snaps into the first regular season game. LSU’s Trai Turner was drafted in the third this year to compete and given the real lack of anything tangible at tackle, from that selection, it’s perhaps obvious they saw this position as a concern too.

2.  Early Down Outside Linebacker

Everyone likes Chase Blackburn because he’s a smart football player but he’s very limited athletically and teams that start him are nearly always looking for an upgrade. That upgrade could and should be A.J. Klein who played only 60ish snaps less than Blackburn last year anyway – doing little wrong in the process. On paper it looks like a slam dunk but there’s a reason Blackburn keeps hanging around and I’m not writing him off yet.

3.  Strong Safety

Here’s the classic training camp battle. Robert Lester, the free agent rookie from last year that everyone loved in spot duty up until he showed his limitations in the Divisional Playoff game and Roman Harper, the nine year veteran Super Bowl winner that many (including us) see as over the hill. He really struggles in coverage now and with his run support skills also in decline it’s hard to see much beyond his savvy winning him the job. The secondary though is a very poor group and someone will be required to hold it together. Harper may just be that man.


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| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Daniel Gleeson

    That secondary… eep

  • Thomas James

    If Ron Rivera manages 12-4 again with this roster he deserves to be Carolina’s coach for life.

    • KittyTheBear

      It might not be pretty but Newton’s gotta throw to somebody. Does Olsen get over 1,000 yards?

      • Thomas James

        It will be interesting to see. Olsen has always had plenty of potential, but he needs to show me at this point of his career. Cotchery and Avant are both solid veterans who will do their jobs and get their yards(barring injury), but project to struggle against playoff caliber DBs. What worries me is the lack of depth across the roster; this team is 3-4 badly timed injuries from 4-12 or worse.

      • DrAWNiloc

        IMHO, the problem this year won’t be their coaching or players but their opposition. I have the Panthers as being dealt 9 wins, better if they can win 2+ games against the northern conferences. Given their 27th draft position they did quite well on May 8-10. Yes, Kelvin Benjamin has to be a contender for OROY while Boston and Turner probably have to hit the ground running but, as long as Cam remains healthy, 12-4 isn’t impossible.

        • JT

          The schedule last year was just as hard if not harder than the one they got this year.

          • DrAWNiloc

            Sort of. The problem is the composition, not just the general competence, of their opposition. Looking at the Carolina defensive backfield I wouldn’t want to face many strong passing teams. In 2013 they played against Tom Brady once and few, if any, other premier QBs [outside of their division and Seattle, whom they play in both years]. In 2014 they face Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay and Philadelphia.

          • JT

            That only matters if their team can block the pass rush….which you need to get by that before you can throw anything against the Panthers. Usually caused interceptions on QBs that threw while being hit. We heard all of last year how the secondary was supposed to be exposed but even if they were as bad as you say its incredibly hard for that to even matter when you take down the QB before he can throw. Panthers led the league in sacks for a good reason.

    • Litework

      They will be 8-8 at best Tampa Bay and Atlanta will be improved. Carolina has major holes at WR, the secondary and at LT.

      • JT

        You must be high….Panthers beat both the Saints and Atlanta last year with a worse WR core than they have now when Smith was down.

        • Litework

          That was last year. Teams that win the NFC south always do worse the next season. Carolina’s WR core is even worse than last year. Who’s their #1 Jericho Cotchery? Tampa, Atlanta, and New Orleans have all gotten better with the draft and free agency. Carolina might push for a wildcard spot but they wont beat the Saints for the division. Theyre a 6-9 team at best.

          • JT

            Lol Decoud only played bad for Atlanta because they have no pass rush. Teams that win NFC South always do worth isn’t even logical as the Seahawks always didn’t win the SB before they won it…..you are clearly a hater as the WRs last year sucked hard Cotchery caught more TDs than any Panthers/Steelers receivers. Lafell and Ginn aren’t even no.3s on most teams which is why they got rid of them and Smith had 745 yards and 4 TDs….you think that’s hard to replace? You need a 800 yard 5 TD season from 1 receiver to top that. I must of missed something because Olson is still there because he was the only reliable receiver there although Smith and Ginn came up on occasion when the Panthers needed them but Lafell was straight up trash.

          • Litework

            Decoud is bad because he cant tackle or cover. LOL pass rush has nothing to do with that, he’s just a bad player. Harper is basically a LB. No team has repeated as NFC south champs. Has nothing to do with the Seahawks who were favorites going to the 2013 season. Nobody cared that they never won the SB before. Jordan Gross is retired. Im not the only person who thinks Carolina might miss the playoffs this year. Nobody handles success worse than the Panthers.

          • JT

            Saying a team never won the NFC South twice in a row is EXACTLY like saying the Seahawks have never won the SB before it happens. Just because something doesn’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t happen this year. Not that the Panthers have to win the NFC South to make the playoffs. Nobody handles success worse than the Panthers? Does that even make sense when their team is entirely different from back then? Ron Rivera is a new head coach….Cam is the face of the franchise and the defense is most likely better than last year. There were many players last year that are going to play better entering their 2nd or 3rd years in Short, Luke, Star, Klein, and Lester.

          • JT

            And btw I don’t expect Harper to play over Lester because he sucks…not sure why everyone is listing him as a starter just because we signed him he’s only good at blitzing really.

  • Ethan Hagen

    Um…Kuechly…Defensive ROY, followed by Defensive POY (First player since Lawence Taylor to pull that off). Most total tackles by any player in the league over the last 2 seasons. What more does one need to do to be considered an elite MLB?

    • AJ

      Well, the first step to be considered an elite linebacker is to actually be an elite linebacker. Kuechly is very good, but not elite and his DPOY should’ve went to a more deserving player.

      • Saurav

        Like say JJ Watt

      • Jeff

        Heck Robert Quinn and LaVonte David were also much better last year than Kuechly. Then there’s JJ Watt… but he is on another level entirely

    • PFF_Pete

      All true, but tackles (which brought him that ROY & POY) are frankly the worst way to judge a linebacker. On film, Kuechly misses too many tackles and makes too many mistakes in coverage to deserve the accolades he gets. Plenty of potential for improvement, but he’s not there yet.

      • JT

        I bet you can’t even show me any film of where he legit missed a tackle…..unless you count a play where he had to run a mile and only touched someone with his pinky that caught the ball downfield thanks to the secondary playing bad.

        • Perception

          He missed 15 tackles in 17 games. And had at least one in 12 of them.
          5:24 in the 2nd Quarter vs the Bucs is just one example.

    • Battle Mage

      Navorro Bowman should have been DPOY last season. Playing in the shadow of Patrick Willis hurt him.

  • Carolina8Dynasty

    I have not been to this site before today, frankly because I haven’t heard of it. Now I see why. Most if not all NFL related site acknowledge that if a person is in the top 10% of their position, that player is rated as “elite”. While I can understand why you could argue Cam Newton is not “elite” (because he falls just outside of the top 10%), Luke Keuchly is in the top 10%.

    • Wyzel

      Keuchly is in the top 10 ILB’s in the league, but not 10% which would be about 5. Watt(2 win season ruined repeat), Quinn, Sherman or Bowman should have gotten DPY There are at least 5 ILB’s better if not more. Cam is average as a passer(at best). I’ve become a big fan of cam, but his passing leaves something to be desired.

      • JT

        Luke is top 3…..putting him anywhere besides below Bowman or Willis would be plain idiotic and it’s not even arguable that he can be the best because he won DPOY which is a really major award.

      • Carolina8Dynasty

        Luke Keuchly, DPOY (voted on by media, coaches, and peers), one year removed from DROTY, top 3 in tackles over a two year span, whose stats are just as good if not better than Bowman and Willis (which runs a 3-4 dfense where both are on the field). Yet you say he is not top 10%? Someone has the old people sunglasses on, while they are plugging their ears and yelling “la-la-la-la”

    • PFF_Neil

      “Most if not all NFL related site acknowledge that if a person is in the top 10% of their position, that player is rated as “elite”.”

      I’d like the links because I’ve never seen any such thing. And even if there was, as long as I defined it, what should stop me from having it how we want?

      Maybe we should just go back to having the sun go around the earth?

      • Carolina8Dynasty

        1: What does astrophysics have to do with this discussion?
        2: When you said this “I’d like the links because I’ve never seen any such thing. And even if there was, as long as I defined it, what should stop me from having it how we want?”

        This showed me that you don’t care about FACTS. In your own words, even if I showed you that the earth revolves around the sun, you’d still deny it out of your own stubborn inability to let go of your ignorance. (and that is a proper way to use that phrase)

  • kb13

    If Benjamin has a good season, the panthers already have more weapons than they did last season. LaFell was bad, and Ginn was average. Its entirely possible Cotchery/Avant/Benjamin can outproduce Smith/Ginn/Lafell..

    Also, before last season, Captain, Florence, Mitchell turned in poor PFF grades before the season and at seasons end all graded positively. Its very possible Godfrey, Lester, Cason, Decoud can repeat their success. I have no hope for Harper and White though.

  • Didier

    I don’t see Tavarres King listed under WR.

    • PFF_Neil

      He didn’t make the criteria but I think we should put him on anyway. Let me explain. If a player is drafted but then waived/released (and has never played a snap) he’s effectively just another free agent and we don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of every NFL move. In this case though, given Denver’s roster at WR, he’s an interesting candidate and probably warrants a mention.

      • KB13

        Why did you list PIlares over King though? Wasn’t Pilares Waived/Put on IR before last season? If I were a betting man, King has a much much much higher chance to make the Roster than Pilares.

  • Drown

    It is clear to me that these guys looked at stats but didn’t watch panthers games. Luke is elite. Hardy is elite. I could argue for cam being higher rated than cotchery as well…… What fullback is better than Tolbert? Also pointing out kalil wasn’t mentioned at all. This is Ryan, not Matt.

  • JT

    How is Melvin White a below average starter? The only game he didn’t play well in was against the Patriots. You don’t have any info on Godfrey ever playing corner so not sure how you don’t have him listed in not enough info. As for most of the secondary they only got worked because their team’s pass rush was terrible compared to the Panthers. Decoud was good until Atlanta had no pass rush which can make any secondary look bad. Cason looked great back in SD under who? Oh yeah Ron Rivera of course. PFF never takes into account the fact that their grades rely way too much on the players that are around the player as well.

  • JT

    Cason and White look completely fine….you guys bump Stewart down for being injured but make Byrd an elite player for missing half the season last year smh.