Panthers add LSU's Jackson, Tennessee's Gaulden to secondary
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By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers turned their attention to the secondary on the second day of the NFL draft - and added an extra draft pick along the way.
The Panthers selected cornerback Donte Jackson from LSU in the second round and safety Rashaan Gaulden from Tennessee in the third round Friday night, one day after taking wide receiver D.J. Moore from Maryland with the 24th overall pick in round one.
"That is an area we wanted to upgrade," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said of the defensive backfield.
Carolina, coming off an 11-5 season, also wanted to get faster on defense - and it did.
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound Jackson possesses high-end speed, clocked at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combines. That tied him for the fastest 40-time among rookie cornerbacks.
"With Jackson, that is adding about as much speed as you can," Hurney said.
Coach Ron Rivera said the addition of Jackson and Gaulden gives them some swagger back in the secondary that they had been missing after the departure of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. Carolina's starting cornerbacks didn't have any interceptions through the first 14 games last season.
He feels like Jackson and Gaulden both have a big chip on their shoulder.
"My expectation is to be a starter from day one," Jackson said. "I am going to be more than ready and I anticipate being a starter."
Jackson could have a chance to start opposite James Bradberry as a rookie.
The Panthers traded last year's starter Daryl Worley to the Philadelphia, although the Eagles later waived him following an off-the-field incident. Carolina added Ross Cockrell in free agency and Kevon Seymour made some plays at cornerback last season.
Jackson played in all 12 games last season for the Tigers and was a second-team all-SEC selection in 2017. He started 12 of 13 games and had 49 tackles, an interception and 10 pass breakups.
Jackson said not being selected in the first round - he was taken with the 55th selection overall - has left him with a chip on his shoulder "the size of this hotel that I am staying in right now."
"Seeing all of those guys picked before me when I was thought to be a first-round draft pick, that chip grew with every pick that I didn't see my name called," said Jackson, who was a member of LSU's SEC Championship 4x100-relay track team last year.
Hurney said Jackson has outstanding ball skills, and the reason he likely fell to No. 55 overall was because of his lack of size.
Rivera said while Bradberry will cover the opposition's bigger receivers, Jackson can handle the smaller, faster ones.
"We feel like he can play outside corner and nickel," Hurney said.
The Panthers view the 6-foot-3, 193 Gaulden as a safety, although he has played some cornerback and nickel back for the Vols.
Rivera likes that Gaulden has good speed for his size and feels he can cover tight ends.
"I can play anything in the defensive backfield," Gaulden said. "It's just the confidence that I have had and through the coaches who trained me to be able to play any position in the back end. But I can play safety at a very high level and that is what the Panthers see me as."
Gaulden had only one interception during three seasons for the Vols, but had three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries last season.
"I try to get to the ball however I can," Gaulden said.
Carolina traded its other third-round pick, No. 88 overall, to Green Bay in exchange for the Packers' fourth- and fifth-round picks. The Panthers now have six picks on Saturday, including the first pick of the day, the 101st overall.
Hurney said that having the first pick in the third day of the draft is a "valuable spot."
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Updated April 27, 2018