The Panthers DE Options for the NFL Draft

If we are to take another defensive end in this draft, I would like it to be a player that would come onto this team and be a natural leader along the defensive line. When the time is ticking off the clock with the Panthers leading by a field goal, we need a player that can come through with a big run stuff or a sack and put the game away for good. We need a player that can create pressure and allow our elite backfield to create turnovers and interceptions. That's what I expect the Panthers to pick in the 2nd round of the draft, barring a Julius Peppers trade over to the Broncos or the Patriots.

Of course, you've heard lately about the Jake Delhomme extension. Sure, he's being paid a large contract. Let it be known though, there isn't much we could have done. We have to clear up some money somehow if we're going to sign our rookie class, and Jake was being paid over 11 million. His agent knew this, and he was able to suck a big contract out of the Panthers. Blame Julius. Now with that said, onto the article.

The Defensive End position is traditionally a tough position to grade. The position is always in high demand and it has a chance at being run on by many teams searching for that next best pass-rusher. There are about 5 players that will make it into the 2nd round if you count out a run on DE's.

Therefore, in the 2nd round of the Draft.

Paul Kruger

Pros: Paul Kruger joined the team as a QB in 2004. After two year hiatus on a Mormon mission, he was able to return and make tremendous contribution to his team in 07-08 as a defensive year. He was a big part of the 13-0 season in 2009, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. He has a strong bloodline, both of his parents were actively involved in sports. He can add some more muscle to him, not fully developed as a player. He's a hard worker and very mature, you won't have to worry about him getting in trouble once you draft him. Good technique, knows how to get under the pads of a defensive player and push them back into the QB. Nice closing speed, always hustles down the field after the play.

Relies too much on a bull rush technique that will not work as well against stronger NFL tackles. Plays too tall at times. He's still working on knocking off blocks at the line of scrimmage. He needs more pass rush moves. He will be a 23 year old rookie with only two years of college experience.

Michael Johnson

Pros: He is a man that could develop into a Julius Peppers clone, though whether or not he will inherit the character issues remains uncertain. At 6,7 and 266, he can still add some weight without it hurting his speed. He has the highest ceiling of any player in the NFL Draft. He has great speed for a player of his size, enough to convert to outside linebacker if he was needed. Uses his long arms to keep defenders from drawing close.

Cons: There are many things to worry about when you think of Michael Johnson. First off is his lack of playing time as a starter. He only played in 12 games as a senior, and of those he played against he didn't do too well when he faced off against a D-1 O-line. There is a worry about his playing effort. He tends to slow down or stand around if he isn't directly involved in a play. Technical issues with his game play hampered his ability to make plays in college, and this should follow him into the NFL if he doesn't improve. He needs to learn to use his hands better, or else he will be quickly wrapped up and defeated in the pros. He also tends to rage out of his gap responsibilities in order to chase the QB. He manages to lunge back and stop the play sometimes in college, but if you would do that in the NFL against a player like Adrian Peterson, you're usually going to give up a chunk of yardage.

Lawrence Sidbury:

Pros: He has good reach to keep the defenders away from him. Has good muscle development. Good personality and has common sense. Very competitive and a by-example leader. He plays very quick off the snap. Good closing speed and can disengage quickly.

Cons: Doesn't have the height or body mass most people look in a 4-3 DE. Doesn't like to take on blocks and would rather run around them. He is vulnerable to attack in the running game.

Jarron Gilbert:

Pros: He has the amazing ability to jump out of a pool. He has the versatility that John Fox craves, with the ability to start at both DT and DE. A good tackler. Naturally large man with room for more muscle.

Cons: Doesn't show sufficient burst off the snap. There is question about his work ethic and how far he will pursue a play. Needs to be more consistent in his pass rush techniques.

Robert Ayers

Pros: A very strong body. He has the strength in the lower body needed so he won't be pushed around in the running game. He shows a good first move against his defender, sometimes blowing right past the double team to the QB. Hard worker, is going to play until the final whistle when motivated. Also has the versatility that John Fox loves, he can play at both DT and DE. Good closing speed, forces QB's into the backfield effectively.

Cons: Relies on his speed off the snap, doesn't have a good first step. Really stepped up his game the 2nd half of his senior season while playing so-so the rest of his career, so there is a danger of him being a one year wonder in the NFL and disappearing after his first big paycheck. He often goes after the tackle high, so power oriented running backs like Adrian Peterson or Brandon Jacobs may be able to shake him off.

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