Panthers’ Matt Rhule passed on top NFL Draft prospect in 2020 after elevator ride

Panthers' Matt Rhule passed on top NFL Draft prospect in 2020 after elevator ride

NFL scouts spend months vetting draft prospects but their fate can all come down to just a few moments with a head coach. 

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule recalled his own experience on Tuesday with a top prospect last year where he said it took a mere elevator ride to decide it wasn’t going to be a “fit.”

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“There was a player last year, and I won’t say who, but was supposed to be drafted pretty highly,” he told the Panthers website. “And I got in the elevator with him at the Combine, and I was like, by the end of that elevator ride, I was like, ‘There’s no way that guy will be a fit with us.'”

Rhule said that the pandemic this year will make getting to know draft prospects even more difficult because of the new limitations put into place — making the scouts’ job that much harder.

“This would be a year when everyone across the NFL knows less about players than any other year,” he said. “We think we know these guys, and our scouts do a great job but that’s only information from a third party. This is a chance for players to speak for themselves and say, ‘This is who I am. This is what my makeup is.'”

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“Coaching them, being in meetings, just being in an elevator with them, you get a sense for the guys.”

The qualities Rhule looks for in a prospect are pretty straight forward.

“We’re looking to find who’s tough, hard-working, and competitive, who’s smart, who loves the game. And who’s a good person. We spend six months a year together, so we want to be around people that we like and fit us.”

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The Panthers ended the regular season 5-11, landing the No. 8 overall draft pick. Rhule has said that he’s looking to boost the team’s offense and mix in some youthful players.

The last time Carolina had the No.8 pick they drafted star running back Christian McCaffery in 2017.

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