CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Loading up on depth in key areas, the Carolina Panthers added a tight end and a second defensive back in the late rounds of the NFL draft Sunday.
Entering their fifth season under coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, the Panthers are coming off an NFC championship game appearance and have become annual playoff contenders, allowing them to draft for development and not immediate needs.
None of Carolina's picks in this year's draft will be expected to start right away, but all were picked at positions where the team hopes to add depth and develop young prospects.
"Our dream is, every one of these guys is good enough to start," Fox said. "Whether that's reality or not, you never know. The guys we select in the draft, we have good feelings about."
"We got the players we came in wanting to get," Hurney said.
With their fourth-round pick, No. 121 overall, the Panthers took safety Nate Salley of Ohio State. He will be expected to back up veteran Mike Minter and Colin Branch, who is expected back after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
The team also has signed veteran free agent Shaun Williams at the position after last year's pleasant surprise, Marlon McCree, signed with San Diego as a free agent.
Salley spent two years in the same Ohio State defensive backfield as Panthers starting cornerback Chris Gamble. Fox said he liked Salley's experience in a high-level program and the fact that he functioned as "quarterback" of the Buckeye secondary.
"I never thought the Panthers would be the ones to pick me," Salley said by telephone from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday. "It's a blessing right now."
Most of his experience at Ohio State was at free safety, Salley said, playing to his strengths of physicality and range. He said he hopes to become a more sure tackler in the NFL.
In the fifth round, with the 155th selection, the Panthers took Virginia Tech's Jeff King, a 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end who will be groomed as a potential successor to longtime starter Kris Mangum. Though tight end is not a high-profile position in the Panthers' offense, Mangum is entering his ninth year and backups Mike Seidman and Michael Gaines have failed to assert themselves as potential successors.
"Obviously Carolina's going to run the football and I'm going to pride myself on blocking and hopefully catch some balls as well when called upon," King said by telephone. "No question, my blocking is going to have to be really good and I'm going to work on that and improve on it if there's some weaknesses there."
Fox said he sees King as capable of playing both fullback and tight end.
In the seventh round, the Panthers added a third Virginia Tech player, drafting center Will Montgomery as a potential backup to free agent pickup Justin Hartwig. It's the first time the Panthers have drafted three players from the same school in the same NFL draft.
Carolina wrapped up the draft Sunday by selecting defensive end Stanley McClover from Auburn three picks later, the 237th overall selection.
Meanwhile, three of the Panthers' Day One selections - first-round running back DeAngelo Willams and third-round picks Rashad Butler, an offensive lineman, and James Anderson, a linebacker - toured Bank of America Stadium with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and showed off their new jerseys for reporters Sunday.
The 5-9 Williams, the nation's leading rusher as a senior at Memphis, was given No. 34, the same number he wore in high school in Arkansas when he idolized Texas running back Ricky Williams.
DeAngelo Williams will be in the mix with two other backs - second-year player Eric Shelton and veteran backup Nick Goings - for the carries not given to lead back DeShaun Foster. Foster has not been particularly durable during his first four seasons in the NFL, which could mean an early opportunity for Williams to make an impact.
Butler, from Miami, and Anderson, from Virginia Tech, played opposite one another in college, first as Big East rivals, then over the last two years in the expanded ACC.
The Panthers' second-round pick, Richard Marshall, a cornerback from Fresno State, was the only early draftee not able to make the trip; he and the other draftees - plus free agent newcomers like wideout Keyshawn Johnson - are due in Charlotte for a minicamp that begins Friday.
Anderson spoke for all the players - especially the madly grinning Williams - when he said, "Right now it feels like I'm dreaming.... Just sitting here wearing a Carolina Panthers hat, I just put down a jersey that had my name on it. I'm like a little kid in a candy store, walking around. "
Williams couldn't stop smiling about his selection.
"I'm still jacked up," he said. "When I found out I was getting (No.) 34, I was excited about that. Everything is exciting....
"Carolina, it's still in the South. I don't have to worry about mixing sugar in my sweet tea."
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