The Carolina Panthers are entering a new era under Matt Rhule in 2020 -- and they are doing so without many of the leaders that helped take the Panthers to the Super Bowl just a few short years ago. It's clear that Rhule believes the Panthers have work to do on the defensive side of the ball, as this year the Panthers became the first team in the common draft era -- which dates all the way back to 1967 -- to take only seven defensive players.
That's correct, every single pick the Panthers had in the 2020 NFL Draft went to the defensive side of the ball. It all started with Derrick Brown out of Auburn -- who went No. 7 overall after earning unanimous consensus All-American honors during his senior season. In the second round, Carolina took defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos out of Penn State -- who racked up 18.5 sacks during his time in State College and earned First-Team All-Big-Ten honors as a junior.
Over the next three picks, the Panthers turned their attention to the secondary -- taking Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn with their second pick in the second round, Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. in the fourth round and Kenny Robinson in the fifth round. The Panthers then wrapped up their draft class with defensive tackle Bravvion Roy out of Baylor in the sixth round and cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III out of FIU.
While releasing quarterback Cam Newton was the move that generated the most headlines, longtime linebacker Luke Kuechly retired, cornerback James Bradberry left to sign with the New York Giants and Carolina also released safety Eric Reid. Along with those losses, defensive linemen Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin and Dontari Poe all have new NFL homes.
You can see how Rhule did his best to address the defensive front and the secondary with these picks. Last year, the Panthers gave up an average of 374.5 yards per game -- which ranked No. 23 in the NFL. They especially struggled defending the run, as Carolina gave up an average of 143.5 yards per game on the ground -- which ranked No. 29 in the league last year.
As for the offensive side of the ball, Rhule certainly has some pieces to work with. He picked up wide receivers Robby Anderson, Seth Roberts and Pharoh Cooper, stole quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the rival New Orleans Saints and gave running back Christian McCaffrey a . Rhule is facing a bit of a rebuild in Carolina, and he clearly put an emphasis on the defense in his first NFL draft.