Yes it's early to talk about the NFL draft this upcoming April. However, it being the New Year, Fox (and Davidson) being officially dismissed, and the Panthers obtaining the first pick, I can't help myself but to think about how the Panthers are going to rise from the ashes. Here's a scenario for how it goes down in late April
Round 1, Pick One: AJ Green, WR, UGA
Since Andrew Luck decided not to enter the draft, the Carolina Panthers needed to add some kind of offensive weapon to upgrade their offense being that going defense isn’t really an option for the NFL’s last ranked offense. AJ Green is the best wide receiver to come out in a couple years, and is really the only choice for the NFL’s worst offense. Additionally, since the Panthers were able to select AJ Green, aka Randy Moss reincarnated, Steve Smith became immediately expendable (especially since the Panthers are going young at the position). As such, the Panthers traded Steve Smith to the Oakland raiders, Belicheck style (aging player for high picks), for Oakland’s 2nd and 3rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Round 2, Pick 48 (From the Raiders): Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
There are a couple of options here for the Panthers. The Panthers could add some depth to their offensive line or defensive end, however Jared Crick, who had a first round grade, is still available. While the Panthers could use another OT/G or DE, Jared Crick is the pick because the Panthers are in such dire straits at the defensive tackle position. With Crick averaging 70 tackles and 9.5 sacks a year (as good as Nick Fairley’s production), the Panthers have greatly beefed up their interior defensive line, freeing Jon Beason and other great linebackers to make plays.
Round 3, Pick 65: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Easy pick for the Panthers. Carimi falls into the 3rd round, after being hyped as a potential 1st rounder (because of a glut of OTs and uncertainty of value in OTs in this class). For a team in need of offensive line help, Carimi is a blessing. Because of his size and strength, the Panthers could potentially utilize him as a quality right guard, which they have been sorely lacking. Alternatively, the Panthers could also utilize Carimi at right tackle and slide the mauler Jeff Otah in, to the right guard position. Either way, the Panthers add a lot of depth and versatility in the trenches.
Round 3, Pick 79 (From the Raiders): Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
Although the Panthers have already picked up a DT, the Panthers are in such need at the position that they’ll need to double dip, just as the Bucs did last year. Once considered a lock for the first round, Marvin Austin falls to the 3rd round because of mounting character concerns. However, the team that took the "problem-plagued" Jimmy Clausen ignores these juvenile issues that Austin has had, and drafts him because they desperately need attitude on the D-line. While many cry that Austin hasn’t produced to his immense talent level, to be fair, he is double teamed every time he runs onto the field. The Panthers yearn of a DT who can take on the double teams and still be disruptive. Austin is this year’s Carlos Dunlap, a player with enormous talent carrying a lot of luggage. The Panthers can’t miss on this prospect if he falls this far.
Round 4, Pick 97: Greg Romeus, DE, Pitt
Romeus, who like Austin, was considered a first round prospect falls in the 2011 NFL Draft because of health issues. Although the Panthers do have young potential in Hardy and Brown, Romeus adds more depth to the Panthers defensive line. With his size, quickness off the line, athleticism, and production, he is a great value in the early 4th round. Great producing DEs like Hardy and Selvie fell far in the draft last year, and Romeus could face the same future.
Round 5, Pick 129: Zack Pianalto, TE, UNC
Since Wesley Walls, the Panthers have yet to find their star tight end. Pianalto has the potential to be that guy, however he has had health problems each season. The Panthers, who picked the injury plagued Hardy (who couldn’t finish a college season) take Pianalto and disregard the health issues, because after all football is a violent contact sport. A great run blocker, and a great receiver who quickly becomes a quaterback’s favorite target, Pianalto will get a shot with the Panthers now that Jeff King is likely on the way out.
Round 6, Pick 161: James Carpenter, OG, ‘Bama
A smothering interior run blocker is exactly what the Panthers need. Keydrick Vincent was dismissed before last season, and his impact was felt. Carpenter is drafted to fill the void.
Round 7, Pick 193: Greg McElroy, QB, ‘Bama
Yes the Panthers already have 2 young QBs on the roster, and Matt Moore wants to return, however the QB situation is still unsettled. McElroy is a prototypical Panther QB, in the mold of Jake Delhomme. While he may not be a dynamic Heisman candidate QB, he is very efficient, throws few interceptions, and does what he has to make the team win.
Of course a lot is going to happen between now and late April (Luck/Harbaugh official decision, combine, coaching decisions). Additionally, the Panthers are unsure of what compensatory picks they will receive, though there will likely be many and will likely be of value. However, I can't wait any longer to talk draft. Please leave your thoughts, and post your own scenario.