Panthers cap last day of NFL Draft with value picks
The Carolina Panthers sought after the best overall value players in the third and final day of the 2013 NFL Draft on Saturday.
The team drafted Valdosta State guard Edmund Kugbila in the fourth round, selected Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein in the fifth round and chose Oregon running back Kenjon Barner in the sixth round.
This trio of players is added to a pair of defensive tackles in Utah's Star Lotulelei and Purdue's Kawann Short drafted by Carolina in the first and second rounds, respectively.
"We felt like we didn't reach for anybody," said Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman. "We felt like we got great value from every pick. We feel good about it. We really do."
The 6-foot-4, 317-pound Kugbila is the second NCAA Div. II offensive lineman drafted in as many years by the Panthers, joining Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State).
"(Edmund) Kugbila is an exciting, young player who is raw, but he has got a tremendous upside," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. "He has great skill and he is a big, heavy body. Guys that are big, heavy bodies that move and have great athleticism are rare and are hard to find. We are very fortunate to have a guy like that."
A former Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year (2011), Klein is added to a plethora of talented linebackers already on the Panthers' roster.
Rivera regards Klein, who tallied 361 tackles in his Cyclone career, as a smart player that is expected to contribute in a number of different ways.
"He has got the ability to play all three (linebacker) positions," Rivera said. "He is a guy that can come in and help you in certain situations and get you out of a game. He is probably going to be a young man that, if he proves it, you are not going to worry about him having to start because he's not going to make a lot of mistakes. He has great special teams value. I expect him to come in and compete to be a four-phase player on our special teams, as well."
With their final pick in this year's draft, Carolina added a talented running back in Barner.
He tallied 2,023 all-purpose yards this past college football season, including a career-high 1,767 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Barner is the second Oregon running back to be featured on the Panthers roster (Jonathan Stewart).
"Kenjon Barner gives us a little scatback," Gettleman said. "He can flat fly. When the ball is in his hands, the fun begins."
Rivera believes Barner could factor not only in the Panthers offense, but also in the kick and punt return games.
"He competed in a good conference where he had a lot of success," Rivera said of Barner. "He came from a program that highlighted and featured his ability."
The Panthers did not address several roster areas in this year's draft — the most paramount of those being in their secondary.
Rivera felt there was not a need to draft a defensive back after adding cornerbacks Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore, as well as safety Mike Mitchell, during free agency.
"I believe we maximized the five picks," Rivera said. "I'm excited. I really am. I'm excited about what we did in free agency. I'm excited the way that things were handled, as far as (free agency) is concerned. I was excited about the first two weeks of our off-season program with our players. We've had over 90 percent participation, which has been outstanding. Now, I'm excited that the draft is over, and we have our five guys we've got going forward. I'm looking forward to the next step of rookie mini-camp."
Discussing other parts of the roster, Gettleman said Saturday that he wants the Panthers to go to training camp with two kickers and two punters each.
However, he said that the long snapper duties have already been settled.
His focus now turns to having a 90-man roster where everyone deserves to be in training camp, and he hopes to have that number by July 18.
Mini camps for Panther players will take place May 11-13 for rookies and June 12-14 for all other players. Carolina's organized team activities (OTAs) are set for three sessions — May 22-24, May 30-June 1 and June 4-7.
The training camp schedule for the Panthers, as well as the entire NFL, is not expected to be released until the end of June.
As for his rookie draft as general manager, Gettleman is pleased with the overall outcome.
"Is there is a position I'm really worried about at this particular time? The answer is no," he said. "That's really where I'm at."