CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers drafted Greg Little on Friday night to protect Cam Newton’s blind side.
The Panthers traded up 10 spots to No. 37 in the second round to get Little, a 6-foot-6, 325-pound left tackle who was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection last season for Mississippi.
“I take pride in keeping people safe,” Little said of protecting Newton. “And I’m going to keep him safe.”
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said he felt the need to trade up to get a left tackle because they were “flying off the draft board” and Carolina needed to fill that spot before they were all gone. Hurney believes Little has a good chance to come in and compete to be the opening day starter at left tackle.
The move was costly for the Panthers, who gave up their own second round pick (No. 47) and an early third round pick (No. 77) to Seattle to move to get Little.
But Hurney said the team couldn’t wait any longer.
“We really liked Greg and we had really good grades on him,” Hurney said. “There was a run on tackles and we didn’t think he had any chance to get to us (at No. 47). We had a chance to get a guy at a premier position that we think has all of the skills to be our starting left tackle for a long time. There are times to be patient and then times when you feel like you better make a move.”
In the last 960 snaps the last two seasons, Little has only allowed 26 quarterback pressures.
“He’s big, he’s athletic and he has long arms,” Hurney said. ”... What’s really impressive about Greg is that he’s got that ability to sit and anchor, and he’s athletic and has good feet. He’s young and he’s only going to get better.”
That’s good news for Newton, who is coming off shoulder surgery and could use a little less wear and tear on his body.
Little fills a big need for the Panthers following a disappointing 7-9 season.
Carolina cut left tackle Matt Kalil with three years left on a $55 million contract after he missed all of last season with a knee injury. The team had to sign free agent Chris Clark early in the season to come in and play left tackle in 2018. He eventually lost the starting job to Marshall Newhouse.
Little was a two-year full-time starter at Mississippi. He helped the Rebels throw for 470 yards and accumulate 76 points in a win over Southern Illinois. The Rebels finished fifth in the nation in passing offense.
He declared for the NFL draft after his junior season.
Little said Hurney made it very apparent before the draft that the Panthers really wanted him. Now he’s ready to step in and protect Carolina’s franchise quarterback.
“Cam will have time to do what he needs to do and that is get the ball out.” Little said. “I’m not going to let nobody down in Carolina.”
Little becomes the second Ole Miss left tackle acquired to protect Newton. Michael Oher was Carolina’s left tackle during its Super Bowl run in 2015, but his career was cut short because of concussions.