General manager Dave Gettleman is doing everything he can to get Cam Newton back to playing at an MVP level — and the Panthers back to the Super Bowl.
Carolina selected speedy slot receiver Curtis Samuel from Ohio State in the second round Friday night, one day after taking Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey with the No. 8 overall pick. That gives Newton two explosive weapons to work with on offense after the Panthers followed up an NFC championship season in 2015 by going 6-10 last year.
“We want to get the ball out of Cam’s hands and into playmaker’s hands,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “The first two guys we drafted are explosive players. These are guys that can take the ball and go the distance anytime they have it in their hands. That’s what is exciting about these guys.”
Gettleman said McCaffrey and Samuel will bring more versatility to the offense.
“These two guys can create matchup problems from a variety of positons — and that ain’t bad,” Gettleman said.
Carolina used its other second round pick on right tackle Taylor Moton, a four-year starter at Western Michigan, which gives Newton added protection in case projected starting right tackle Michael Oher can’t make it back from a concussion that sidelined him for 13 games in 2016. Oher is still in the league’s concussion protocol, Rivera said.
The Panthers closed out day two of the draft by turning to defense, trading up 21 spots in the third round to take Texas A&M defensive end Daeshon Hall.
The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Samuel played running back and wide receiver for the Buckeyes and led Big Ten in all-purpose yards. Samuel is expected to primarily play in the slot for Carolina, but could be moved around quite a bit, Rivera said.
McCaffrey will see most of his action at running back after leading the nation in all-purpose yards last season working as a running back, wide receiver and returner.
They join an offense that was No. 1 in the league in scoring two years ago behind Newton, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen, all of whom return.
“It’s going to be a great offense,” Samuel said. McCaffrey “and I both can do similar things and I think we complement each other well.”
Samuel has a similar build to the 5-10, 202-pound McCaffrey, but is faster. He ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, the second-fastest time among wide receivers behind only John Ross (4.22), who set a combine record.
“I feel like I’m the perfect fit” in the slot, Samuel said.
The Panthers took the 6-foot-5. 319-pound Moton at No. 64 after former Carolina defensive coordinator and new Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott traded up one spot ahead of the Panthers to take Temple offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. Moton started more games (52) at Western Michigan than any player in school history and said durability is one of his strengths.
Behind Moton, Western Michigan was 24th in the country in rushing and allowed just 15 sacks last season. Moton shares the same agent, Joel Segal, as McCaffrey and said he’s excited to play with the former Stanford running back.
“I can’t wait to open some holes for him,” Moton said.
Carolina gave up its third and fourth round picks to Arizona for Hall, who played on the same defensive line as Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
“I feel like he benefited playing from me and I benefited playing with him,” Hall said of playing with Garrett at Texas A&M.
The Panthers do not have a pick in the fourth round, but have one in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds on Saturday. They have addressed all of their major needs so they could go in any direction.