It seemed like safety Robert Lester might have been the only Alabama player who wasn’t drafted this year.
He might have also been among the most fortunate.
Signing with the secondary-poor Panthers gives Lester a shot at not only making a roster, but also a decent shot a starting job.
According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Lester got some work with the first team during spring workouts, and has made a good impression.
Of course, the Panthers don’t have much to compete with, as he’s working alongside special teamer Haruki Nakamura, former Raiders draft reach Mike Mitchell and last year’s seventh-rounder D.J. Campbell for the starting job opposite Charles Godfrey.
And realizing that was one of the smart things he did when more than 10 teams called immediately after the draft trying to sign him.
“It worked out perfectly,” agent Pat Dye Jr. said. “I told Robert once you get beyond the fifth round – everyone’s making the rookie minimum anyway – you’re almost better off being able to pick your team.”
Lester’s slow 40 times (he ran a 4.66 at the Combine) were the reason he wasn’t one of nine Crimson Tide players drafted. He’s used to being overshadowed, as he was the fourth defensive back in Alabama’s secondary of first-rounders (Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner).
“It means that he’s been in big situations before,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of playing at a high-profile program. “You know that his transition should not be as hard. It should be a relatively easy transition for him.”
Of course, signing with a team that has less secondary talent than he’s used to playing with also helps.