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Carolina Panthers Draft Forecast

2010 Carolina Panthers Draft Prediction

Feb 23, 2010

            Alright Panther Fans, it is almost 2 months before the NFL draft in April and the combine is just getting underway.  Put simply, this is a prediction of how the Panthers will do come Draft Day.  To my best effort, I tried to make this as impartial as possible and as realistic as possible.  Thus, this is not what I WANT us to pick, but what I think the Panthers front office may do.  I have had some success doing this as I've done this the past few years and predicted that we would pick up Jarrett, Kalil, Connor, Stewart, Otah, D Robinson, and Munnerlyn.  Some of the stuff I am going to propose might sound a little outlandish, but hear me out because I have put some thought into assessing draft history, team needs, and front office tendencies.  This prediction will start out specific and progressively get more general because it is tougher to know what happens down the road and who will be available.  Let me know what ya’ll think, and I would love to see ya’lls draft predictions, but please try to be as realistic as possible.

Team Needs:

High Priority: DE, WR- With Pep gone, DE has vaulted itself to the #1 position of greatest dire need.  WR is a close second.  Both are such an area of need that might require spending multiple picks on these positions.

Medium Priority: CB, OLB, DT-CB depth all depends on whether Marshall resigns, but could still add a player.  With Diggs at OLB, the position could be upgraded or at least afforded some more depth.  If Thomas Davis doesn’t resign or won’t be physically able to go next season, LB will become a high priority in the draft.  Need a great DT, but are now loaded with young players coming off IR.

Regular Priority: QB, OL - Have depth at OL, but can always add more talent.  Although many think QB is a much higher priority here, the reality is that Fox and Hurney are satisfied with Moore and Delhomme.  Even if we were to spend a high draft pick on a QB this year, he most likely wouldn’t start, and with Fox and Hurney being on the hot seat, they don’t care too much about rebuilding this position long-term. 

No Priority: RB, FB, MLB, S –Plenty of talent here, no need to spend draft picks on them.  With 3 good safeties, no need to spend pick here but may draft a player in the mold of a CB/S.

Round

Player

Late 1st, early-to mid 2nd

Jason Pierre Paul, DE, USF

Come draft day, many teams will be looking at defensive linemen, and many may disregard Paul as a one year wonder, and a semi-productive player to obtain other some of the elite DE’s of the draft: Derrick Morgan, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Graham, and Everson Griffen.  I believe the aforementioned four will go in the 1st round and Paul will slip and very possibly fall to the late 1st, early to mid 2nd round.

The thing to keep in mind here is that the Carolina Panthers go into drafts having their eyes set on certain players, and they have proven to be assertive to go and get the players that they want, if they are available by trading draft picks (see Everette Brown 2009, Jeff Otah 2008, and Jon Beason and Dwayne Jarrett 2007).  Additionally, the Panthers front office is also very high on drafting their core players, and not buying en masse them through free agency.  Furthermore, the Panthers have a limited number of picks this year because they have traded many away, as they sold this year’s first to obtain Brown and Goodson in last year’s draft, and traded other picks for defensive tackles during the season (see Tank Tyler and Louis Leonard).  This leaves the Panthers with picks 2,3,4,6,7 to obtain players.  That’s only 5 picks to rebuild, and since stocking players through the draft is their rebuilding method of choice, they will make a move.  Like the past few years, Hurney and Fox will recognize that this may be their last year, and that the time is now to win and go into the playoffs.  With this conclusion, they will trade next year’s 1st for more draft picks, which will be a 2nd rounder and possibly a 4th rounder (not sure exactly how it will shake down though, I’m just trying to assert that the Panthers will trade for a draft pick).  Don’t believe me?  Hurney and Fox have become adept at trading picks, and mortgaging their future—for the past three years, the Panthers have made draft day trades to acquire the players they so covet(see 2007 Jon Beason and trading down, 2008 trading with Philly for Otah, 2009 trading 2010 1st for Brown).  Although many will probably think this is an outlandish proposal, I think it is very possible that Hurney and Fox will make a trade come draft day.  Just don’t be surprised if they do trade for picks come draft day ya’ll, I for one wouldn’t rule it out…

Now back to Jason Pierre-Paul. Paul started only 1 year at South Florida, playing opposite star George Selvie.  He is much like Jeff Otah, in that he is raw because he does not have a lot of football experience being somewhat recently new to football.  Although raw as an oyster, he is very athletic and has potential through the roof.  He comes from a family that didn’t have much so he is very motivated to do well, and is even focused on his education.  Last year at USF, Paul overshadowed Selvie to some degree (40 tackles, 3 sacks) in 2009 having 42 tackles, 6 sacks, and an interception for a touchdown.  Some think he is a one year wonder and that he did not have THAT great of a year.  Also, many teams will most likely be tentative to spend such a high draft pick on such a raw/uncertain prospect (but you never know with Al Davis).  This is why he may be prone to slipping on draft day.  Also, with Morgan, Dunlap, Graham, and Griffen, teams will have many choices on good 4-3 DE’s, and some may not want to take the risk on such a developmental player.  Just like Calais Campbell and Everette Brown slipped into the second round the past few years, Pierre Paul may be passed on initially.   Thus, I see him potentially slipping on draft day (I could be totally wrong though and every team in the league could be salivating just at the thought of him). 

Okay, now back to the Panthers.  When Julius Peppers left un-franchised, he created a giant vacuum and hole on our defensive line and team.  Yes, WR is a huge weakness of this team, but I am not sure how much people have recognized that Peppers’ departure has weakened our team.  For now, we have Charles Johnson, a rotational player (and a good one at that), and 2nd year player Everette Brown slated to take the reins.  While Johnson and Brown could be fine starters on the line, we still don’t have any depth because we have not yet signed anyone in FA or resigned Tyler Brayton.  Even if we do resign Brayton, we need depth and talent on the line.  Yes, the Panthers may look at DTs in the draft, but with Lewis, Kemo, Hayden, Irvin, Tyler, Leonard, etc…on our roster, make no mistake the Panthers will be very focused at drafting a DE.  Pierre-Paul, although he did have good, albeit not great numbers in 2009, is an athletic freak in the mold of J Pep (He even wears number 90).   The man is such an althetic freak and talent that he can even do a backflip in full pads, and has tremendous upside at 6-6, 263 and probably around 4.65-4.7 40 time.  One difference from J Pep though is that he is a work machine and brings the energy. 

Thus, with Pierre-Paul potentially falling, the Panthers trading next year’s draft pick, and looking for a great DE, Paul will be our guy. Any questions so far?

2nd

Damian Williams, WR, USC

It is no secret that the Panthers need a playmaker opposite Smitty.  Hell, he even said it himself.  Without a legitimate threat opposite Smitty (and Helen Keller as our QB), OC Davidson was  hesitant to ever put the ball in the air.  As a result, teams loaded up on the run.  Thus, we need a threat opposite Smitty now.

The Panthers other options at WR aren’t great.  Muhammad hasn’t yet been resigned, and even if he is, he is freakin’ old and his production is declining fast.  Although Dwayne Jarrett did come on at the end of last year with a quarterback change and a significant increase in playing time, we still need another threat.  Kenny Moore works out and follows Smitty, but is not yet ready to become a starter or play significant chunks of minutes.  Charly Martin is also in the same boat as K Moore.  Thus, WE NEED ANOTHER WR!!

Dez Bryant will go in the first as will Golden Tate.  Yes Golden Tate will go in the 1st, don’t buy into some of these mock drafts, he is simply too good of a talent.  Brandon Lafell may go in the 1st, maybe in the 2nd, I’m not Nostradomus though so I don’t know.  Arrelious Benn may also go before us, I don’t know where he’ll go (maybe to the Raiders), I just know the Panthers aren’t picking him. I also think Mardy Gilyard and Jordan Shipley will shoot up draft boards and be very high on other teams lists, so it is very possible we don’t get them, although we have a chance to and just may given the chance.  Following these WRs, and with our other 2nd pick, there will be many available (Williams, Thomas, Decker, Alexander, Ford, etc…) BUT the Cats will choose Damian Williams from USC. 

Yes, I know this would make 2 D-Williams on the team, but I think Hurney and Fox put this aside.  The Panthers LOVE USC kids (see Colbert, Kalil, Jarrett), especially USC WRs, I guess because it is more of a pro style offense.  Anywho, Damian is 6-1, 195 and will probably run a 4.45.  He had 70 rec, 1010 yds, and 6 tds in 2009.  He played well consistently in just about every game and against every team. Athletic, good route runner and hands, deep threat, and can return punts.  Therefore, Cats take Damian in the 2nd.

3rd

Jason Fox, OT, the U (Miami)

So last year our tackles, Otah and Gross went down and Travelle Wharton had to switch to the tackle spot and backups filled the rest of the line.  While the backups did a fine job, the Carolina Panthers focus is on pounding the ball, and that starts up front, with the ‘big uglies.’  While Gross and Otah will be back and we do have satisfactory backups in Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernadeau, we could use another backup or at least someone to replace Keydrick Vincent.  In the past couple of years, we have had to rely on our backups due to injury, and thus it never hurts to stockpile talent on the line. 

Fox has been a rock on Miami’s O-line since he has stepped on campus.  At 6-7, 314 the guy is a beast.  One of the better offensive tackles in the draft, but will be drafted lower because he has risky health issues.  His list of health issues are long as he has had knee surgery and has an irregular heartbeat.  I could see the Panthers picking him up, though he may go later due to health issues.

Other Possible Picks:

DT: Geno Atkins, Georgia

OLB: Rennie Curran, Georgia

CB: Jerome Murphy, USF

WR: Jacoby Ford, Clemson

4th

Riley Cooper, WR, UF

The Panthers have already taken a receiver, but need so much help there, they will draft talent at this position twice.  Don’t believe me? In 2009, they drafted 2 CBs because the position was of such desperate need, in 2008 3 OL, in 2007 2 WR, in 2005 3 OL…get the point?? When the Panthers are desperate in need of talent, they take multiple players at that position.  Therefore, the Panthers will be looking at a second receiver in the 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th rounds.

With Percy Harvin gone, Cooper quickly became one of Tebow’s favorite targets and increased his production significantly. In 2009, he had 51 rec, 961 yds, and 9 tds.  At 6-3, 215 Cooper looks like a taller Wes Welker who could play the slot.

Other Possible Picks:

QB: Sean Canfield, Oregon St, Bill Stull, Pitt

DE: Lindsey Witten, UConn

OLB: Dekoda Watson, FSU

CB: Jerome Murphy, USF

5th and 6th

Bill Stull, QB, Pitt

Okay, so getting down to the later rounds.  Not sure which picks we may have, and what if any compensatory picks we may have.  Therefore, here on out, I will list players and positions that may be targeted in these later rounds.

Besides Matt Moore’s remarkable play to end last season, the Panthers will be looking for a QB for the future.  QB is a priority in the draft, but don’t think the Cats will use a high draft pick on one, or that they will draft someone like Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Tony Pike, or any of those type QBs.  The front office won’t take a QB with a high pick because that’s simply not Hurney or Fox’s style, and they wouldn’t play this season anyway.  Also, these quarterbacks listed and those like them played in goofy, shotgun college offenses, and we are looking for someone that could play in a pro-style system.

Stull played at Pitt, where they employed a more pro-style offense, taking snaps under center and dropping back to make passes similar to those in our offense.  So Stull makes sense here.  His production has also been good: in 2009 he had a 65.1 comp %, 2633 yds, 8.2 YPA, 150.61 QB rating, and a TD-to-INT ratio of 21 to 8.  Is 6-3, weighing 215.  Longest ball thrown was 79 yds, so he can throw the long ball.  Also played well consistently throughout the year and against a variety of teams. Therefore, Stull will stay a Panther as we’ll draft him.

Other Possible Picks and Additional Options:

QB: Sean Canfield, Oregon St

DE: Clifton Geathers, South Carolina

CB: Myron Lewis, Vandy

OLB: Kavell Conner, Clemson

6th and 7th

DE, WR, CB, OLB

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