Panthers wrap up draft with NC State, FSU players

Carolina added to its offensive line and secondary

NC State's Chandler Zavala (64) and Ikem Ekwonu (79) will be reunited after the Panthers selected Zavala on Saturday at the NFL Draft. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

After adding a quarterback, receiver and pass rusher in the first two days of the draft, the Carolina Panthers concentrated on the next area of need in Saturday’s fourth round.

The Panthers stayed within their home state by taking NC State offensive lineman Chandler Zavala with the 12th pick in the fourth round, No. 114 overall. Zavala played guard for the Wolfpack for the last two years after transferring from Fairmont State. He teamed up with Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, who the Panthers took in the first round last season out of NC State.

“Two years ago, watching tape, he lines up next to Ickey, and they’re just road grading people,” said Panthers GM Scott Fitterer. “He’s physical, smart, tough, everything we went in an o-lineman.”

Zavala was also motivated to rejoin his college teammate on the Panthers line.

“Playing next to Ickey was really fun,” he said. “We both learned a lot from each other. We got along and played well with each other.”

“He was a guy that wanted to be here,” Fitterer said. “He sent us a text yesterday just checking in, to see how things were going. … When we took him, guys across the league were like, ‘Wow, that’s a great pick.’ Everyone was trying to keep him under the radar, but he’s a guy people knew about.”

He’ll likely find playing time early with guard Austin Corbett recovering from an ACL tear that will keep him out for the start of the season.

“One of our strengths is O-line,” said coach Frank Reich. “The group that’s here has done a good job, but it’s no secret you need depth at O-line. You need competition. Corbett’s injury, and him missing time at the beginning of the year, we needed to find somebody to come in there and find the right mix in the interior.”

The Panthers had just one more pick in the draft, taking Florida State safety Jammie Robinson with the 10th pick in the fifth round, No. 145 overall. The last Seminole the Panthers drafted worked out pretty well — 2019 first-rounder Brian Burns, who has become one of the league’s top pass rushers.

Burns was gone by the time Robinson, who only played two years with the Noles after transferring from South Carolina, arrived, but he certainly knew about the FSU legend.

“In games, they show highlights of NFL players from last Sunday, and it always showed him getting sacks,” Robinson said. “I was like, ‘This guy is always making plays. He gets a sack every week. That’s a dog.’”

Robinson has a tighter connection with another first-rounder on the Panthers’ D — Jaycee Horn, who teamed up with him at South Carolina.

“Jaycee called as soon as I got the call (from the team),” Robinson said. “It’s crazy how the world is, and we’re back on the same team. I already know when I get there he’s gonna put me on the beat — what it is and what it ain’t.”

Robinson could play safety or nickel with the Panthers.

“Guys got hurt, and I’d have to go down on a Wednesday practice and compete at nickel,” he said. “I’m a team guy. I don’t care as long as I’m on the field making plays for our team.”

“He’s a tough competitor,” said Reich. “He’s a heavy hitter in the box, but we don’t want to put him in a box just yet. We want to get to know him more. He’s high character, tough, has an edge to him. He has great special teams value. We talk a lot about finding roles for players and be a star in your role. He’s going to create a role for himself.”

Here’s a rundown of the local players who heard their names called on the draft’s final day:

KJ Henry edge rusher, Clemson (Winston-Salem, West Forsyth), No. 2 in the 5th round, 137th overall by Washington.

Nick Hampton, edge rusher, App State, No. 26 in the fifth round, 161st overall by the L.A. Rams.

Asim Richards, OT, UNC, 34 in the fifth round, 169th overall by Dallas.

A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest, 18th in the sixth round, 195th overall by New Orleans.

Antoine Green, WR, UNC, No. 2 in the seventh round, 219th overall by Detroit.

Ethan Evans, punter, Wingate, No. 6 in the seventh round, 223rd overall by L.A. Rams.

Jovaughn Gwyn, OG, South Carolina (Charlotte, Harding University High), No. 8 in the seventh round, 225th overall by Atlanta.

Cooper Hodges, OT, App State, ninth in the seventh round, 226th overall by Jacksonville.

Raymond Vohasek, DT, UNC, 10th in the seventh round, 227th overall by Jacksonville.

Jordon Riley, DT, Oregon, (Durham, Riverside High, UNC) 26th in the seventh round, 243rd overall by the Giants.

Jalen Brooks, WR, South Carolina, (Harrisburg, Hickory Ridge High, Wingate) 27th in the seventh round, 244th overall by Dallas.

Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte, 39th in the seventh round, 256th overall by Green Bay.