The Panthers selected eight players in the 2018 draft, and in doing so, managed to address needs on both sides of the ball. However, needs still remain and the Panthers will likely hope to fill some of these with undrafted free agents before the deadline for compensatory pick-exempted free agency begins next week on May 8th. With that in mind, the Panthers have already signed seven undrafted free agents, with a focus on needs that weren’t filled during the draft itself; so what are realistic expectations for the latest group of Carolina Panthers?
Kyle Allen, QB Houston
Allen was one of many players who got a shot to replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M before eventually transferring to Houston after his sophomore season. Allen is an accurate quarterback with a strong enough arm but it does appear on tape as though his touch is still a work in progress; having only ever played in spread, up-tempo offenses, there will likely be a significant step up for him when it comes to mastering an NFL playbook. It would be somewhat surprising if he were to come in and wow in training camp, but as the only other depth quarterback on the roster right now is Garrett Gilbert, he likely has a chance of making the final roster. Hurney has spoken before about his view on adding a quarterback every offseason in case you happen to hit upon a gem, and while Allen certainly fits that bill, it would be a surprise if he was a long-term fixture on the roster baring significant improvement.
Reggie Bonnafon, QB/WR/TE/RB Louisville
Bonnafon started five games at quarterback in his freshman season before being beaten out by Lamar Jackson; rather than being content with being Jackson’s backup, Bonnafon converted to receiver and then running back, putting up 453 yards and seven TDs on 91 carries and 341 yards and six TDs on 34 receptions over the past two seasons. Measuring in at 6’1 and 212 pounds at his pro day, it is also quite hard to work out where he would play for the Panthers, as at that body type he could be either a slightly built running back or a well-built receiver; but there is something of an answer on tape. While Bonnafon was listed as a running back this past year, he was by far the most effective when given the ball in space, and for the Panthers, his most likely shot at making the roster would be to add some weight and to come in and compete with Chris Manhertz for the thirrd TE spot as an H-back with the ability to carry the ball or run routes out of the backfield. He might face an uphill struggle to make the roster this September, but if the Panthers can find a way to use him effectively, then he offers an intriguing skill set.
Kyle Bosch, G/C West Virginia
Bosch played guard at West Virginia but could move to center at the NFL given that he weighed in at under 300 pounds and seemed to struggle for raw strength at times in college; he does use his hands very well and moves reasonably well in pass protection but doesn’t move with skill in space and if he is asked to play at guard in the NFL, he might well struggle for strength. It would be a stretch to imagine him beating out Tyler Larsen or Greg Van Roten in training camp, but he could be an option for the practice squad as a developmental center conversion.
Chris Frey Jr., LB Michigan State
Frey is a pure chase-and-hit linebacker who didn’t excel in space in college. Given that the Panthers drafted two linebackers ahead of him and have four linebackers on the roster who are all but certain to make the 53, it should be expected that Frey will be seen as something of a camp body. However, injuries above him are always a possibility and while something has gone very, very wrong if he sees the field on anything but special teams in 2018, he could always cling onto the practice squad in that role. With that said, he is one of least likely to make the final 53 of those signed so far.
Taylor Hearn, G Clemson
Hearn has decent power and movement skills, but despite coming out of a larger school in Clemson, his hand usage and play height are worryingly poor; with that said, Clemson aren’t famed for their offensive line play and should Hearn respond to coaching, there is always a chance that he is able to make some progress in the chaos that is likely to be the interior offensive line depth chart this summer. His best chance is likely going to be through the practice squad, as if he can show progress in terms of his technique, then there is enough athleticism there to intrigue a team like the Panthers with questionable offensive line depth.
Brendan Mahon, T/G Penn State
Mahon is an intriguing option on tape, as he shows both good movement skills and impressive power with some promising hand usage and play height; what he needs to do is play with more consistency and will likely best suited to playing guard at the NFL level. At 6’4 and 320 pounds, he has the natural size to play guard; for a man of this size, he moves with surprising quickness and shows a good slide for a guard. He will need to keep his hands inside more consistently in pass protection in order to avoid falling victim to swim moves at the next level, but he stands a real chance of making the 53-man roster and could even be a (albeit very) dark horse candidate for the left guard spot.
Tracy Sprinkle, DT Ohio State
The Panthers interior defensive line group has been a strength since the draft that brought Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei to the Panthers, and with the signing of Dontari Poe and the drafting of Kendrick Norton, that group has only got stronger. While it will be very interesting to watch the battle between Love and Norton for the fourth defensive tackle spot, Sprinkle will almost certainly be on the outside looking in come September. That isn’t to say he is bad, his tape is respectable, but Kyle Love is one of the more underrated players on the Panthers roster and Norton should be seen as a steal in the seventh round. He has a shot at making the practice squad, but the Panthers likely have little interest in a developmental defensive tackle besides Norton.