Defense rules in Carolina's 1999 draft
Posted: Sunday April 18, 1999 09:35 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers closed out their 1999 draft Sunday by focusing on trying to improve what was the lowest-rated defense in the NFL last year.
The Panthers used all three of their selections Sunday on defensive players: Colorado linebacker Hannibal Navies was taken in the fourth round with the 100th overall selection; defensive end Robert Daniel of Northwestern Louisiana went in the sixth round (No. 175) and safety Tony Booth of James Madison was picked in the seventh round (No. 211).
Combined with their Saturday picks, the Panthers used four of their five selections in the draft on defense.
"I'm excited to work with this group of players," said new coach George Seifert, brought in after Carolina went 4-12 last season. "I think we've got a good group to draw on. Now it's a matter of our coaches getting to perform."
While the Panthers were concentrating on their final three picks, Carolina's two selections from Saturday's second round came to Charlotte on Sunday. Offensive tackle Chris Terry, the 34th overall selection, and defensive end Mike Rucker, the 38th pick, visited Ericsson Stadium to meet with their new position coaches and see the Panthers' facilities.
Offensive line coach Tony Wise said Terry will be initially listed as Carolina's second-string left tackle behind Clarence Jones but will be given every chance to compete for a starting job.
"We have very high expectations," Wise said.
Defensive line coach Jacob Burney offered a similar sentiment when asked what the Panthers expect from Rucker.
"Our plans for him are to help us win some games," Burney said.
Seifert said Navies might be able to help Carolina immediately at outside linebacker or as a nickel back. Because of his superior speed and athleticism, Navies also will be counted on to contribute on special teams.
Navies was asleep in Oakland, Calif., when Seifert telephoned him to say the Panthers were about to draft him. It was 11 a.m. in Charlotte but only 8 a.m. in California.
"Best wake-up call I ever had," Navies said.
Daniel played just one year of high school football but had a good career at Northwestern Louisiana and was considered by many to be the premier defensive lineman in Division I-AA.
Daniel said he won't be intimidated by the move up to the NFL.
"I'm not going to feel uncomfortable when I get out there," he said.
Booth played free safety at Division I-AA James Madison last season, but Seifert said the Panthers would first try the 6-foot, 194-pounder at cornerback.
Booth said he had been told he could be drafted as high as the third round, so he was disappointed to last until the seventh.
"You want to be drafted a little higher," he said, "but I'm happy I'm going to Carolina."
The five selections represented the lowest number for Carolina in any of its five drafts. Carolina lost its first-round pick as part of last year's deal that brought defensive end Sean Gilbert from Washington. The Panthers surrendered their third-round pick in the trade with Denver for reserve quarterback Jeff Lewis. And Carolina's fifth-round selection went to Dallas for signing restricted free-agent wide receiver Patrick Jeffers away from the Cowboys.
"You're foolish if you're not optimistic," Seifert said of the moves the team has made since his hiring in January. "We're very hopeful about it."
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