It's only about 106 days away, and I can't wait. It's what I go to sleep thinking about and what I think about in my free time. Now that we've named a new Head Coach, it only further spurs my interest and fascination with the draft. In my last mock, I had the Panthers picking AJ Green. In this mock, I still have the Panthers picking AJ Green, although just about everything else is different. This mock draft will hopefully shed light on other prospects out there who could be targeted by the Panthers, and demonstrate potential situations that could happen come draft day.
2011 Carolina Panthers Mock Draft
Round 1, Pick One: AJ Green, WR, UGA
Panthers pass on Nick Fairley, sorry ya’ll. Yes, new head coach Ron Rivera is a defensive minded coach, however the defense is more solid than the placid, 32nd ranked offense. Although Fairley is given some serious consideration due to his breakout year, he simply isn’t worth the number one pick. Additionally, most defensive tackles taken this early rarely produce to prove their worth (i.e. Gerald McCoy) and Fairley is no exception (his ability to dominate in the pros is very uncertain). The Panthers must find a way to lift this offense out of the dumpster, which in turn will assist the defense. Owner Jerry Richardson also wants an exciting offense to bring crowds back to Bank of America stadium, and so the Panthers must go offense.
Touted as the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson, AJ Green is just too good of a prospect to give up. In a few years, this guy very well may be a Pro Bowler! Comparable to Randy Moss as a wide receiver, Green is worth the number one pick. Sophomores LaFell and Gettis look promising, however there’s no guarantee that they will be serious contributors and scare opposing defenses. Green is brought in just for that, to eventually take over Steve Smith’s role as the dominant number one WR who commands double teams and gives opposing D Coordinators nightmares. Standing 6-4 and running somewhere in the 4.4 range, Green is a tall, fast WR who has the potential to be Pro Bowl material in a few years, and Panthers would be absolute fools to miss out on him.
Oh, and yes that is Patrick Peterson in the picture, struggling to guard Green. I added this picture to emphasize just how good AJ Green is. Playing against LSU, Green has had games of both 89 yds and a TD, and 99 yds and a TD.
Round 3, Pick 65: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
You're probably thinking, no way he makes it this far, am I right? Well, in the past few years, some Tight Ends (Gresham, Pettigrew, and Keller) were taken in the first round, but they also had serious production in college and Rudolph just hasn't lit it up like that. Because of that, he's going to fall, and will probably land somewhere 2nd-3rd, where most promising TEs do. Injury concerns and his inability to exceed 300 yards in a season caution teams from taking him too early.
Being that new head coach Ron Rivera really wants to reinvent the tight end in the Carolina offense, he needs a star TE in the mold of Wesley Walls. Rudolph has the potential to be such a stud TE. He’s big, fast, catches everything, and already has a connection with Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen. At this position in the draft, he’s the best player available, and he fills a large need for the Panthers. Along with 1st rounder AJ Green, this offense just got a whole lot more dangerous.
Round 3, Pick 97: Marcus Cannon, OT/G, TCU
The beauty of the 2011 draft is that there is a glut of good offensive tackles. Additionally, there is an uncertainty to who is the better prospect, and each scout seems to rank the OT class differently. Whether it be Solder, Carimi, Cannon, or whoever, one of the better offensive tackles is most likely going to fall in the draft, and the Panthers should benefit from this.
With the Panthers 3rd round compensation pick, acquired from the loss of Julius Peppers, the Panthers pounce on a falling top OT/G prospect. In this case, it is Marcus Cannon, a large, athletic tackle, whose future might be better suited at guard at the next level, although he just may be able to play OT. With the uncertainty surrounding OT Jeff Otah, it’s wise for the Panthers to get a quality OT/G like Cannon. If Otah can’t return from his knee problems, then Cannon may be able to step up. And in the case that Otah returns, Cannon’s presence is even better because it affords the Panthers versatility along the offensive line. With Cannon, Otah could play OG if need be, or Cannon could slide in. Either way, the Panthers must get someone to help block for Double Trouble and Jimmy Clausen.
Round 4, Pick 98: Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson
After the Panthers first three picks went to help their anemic offense, the Panthers must not neglect their defense. And the area that most needs fixing on the defensive side is the defensive interior, as the Panthers have had trouble stopping running backs and applying pressure to the QB from the interior. Fairley, Dareus, Paea, Nevis, Austin, Casey, and Powe are all gone by this time and the next best thing is Clemson DT Jarvis Jenkins. Listed at 6-4, 315, Jenkins is a bull in the middle. His forte is run stopping, as he accounted for 69 stops, 11 TFL in 2009, and 2 sacks in 2009. Big, athletic, and strong, Jenkins can help seal the interior of this defense, freeing up the linebackers such as Pro Bowler Jon Beason.
Round 5, Pick 129: Greg Romeus, DE, Pitt
Unless there is a great value later in this draft, the Panthers are done fixing their offense. Giving Clausen targets In AJ Green and Rudolph with help tremendously, not to mention giving time for Clausen to thow behind Marcus Cannon. Thus, the Panthers must turn their attention fully to their defense. With Jarvis Jenkins already on board, the Panthers still need to upgrade their defensive line because Charles Johnson is the only playmaker here. Although Hardy had some moments last year, the Panthers still have a gaping hole on the side opposite Johnson, not to mention they’ll need some better rotation players.
Romeus, once thought to be a first round pick, falls to the beginning of the fifth round here. His back surgery really has cost him dearly in terms of draft stock. Teams are weary of taking him early, just as teams were weary of taking Hardy early in last year’s draft. Romeus compares really well to George Selvie, who has talent but also fell in the draft. Good speed off the edge, decent power, takes great angles, and simply gets to the QB. Also plays the run very well off the weak side. No harm in adding more promise to the struggling DE position.
Round 6, Pick 161: Kendrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
Still needing some depth at the DT position, the Panthers take Ellis in the later rounds. Ellis, who was once a highly sought after recruit, transferred to Hampton from South Carolina because of failed drug tests. While at Hampton, he dominated FCS talent, notching 94 total tackles, 15 TFL, and 2 sacks. While at Hampton, it wasn’t unusual for Ellis to dominate a game and have 15 tackles. Although he’s 6-5 and 340, he is suprisingly nimble for his size. Powerful and great at taking on double teams, which he will command. Will surely be an anchor at the next level, which is what the Panthers desperately need. Also would be a good fit next to Jarvis Jenkins.
Round 7, Pick 193: Kendric Burney, CB, UNC
The past few years, the Panthers have used 7th round picks to supplement their CB depth, so I have the Panthers doing the same here. Kendric Burney is a phenomenal talent, however because of his size (5-9, 187) teams are going to shy away from him just as they did with Captain Munnerlyn. Most NFL teams typically don’t prefer CBs smaller than 6-0, simply because of the height differential with taller WRs. 5-9 is simply too short for most NFL teams. However, the Panthers overlook this because Burney has a great vertical and can go toe-to-toe with taller WRs. New HC Ron Rivera also needs fast cover corners, so that he can use his ‘backers to blitz. With Burney falling, the Panthers swoop in to take him late in the draft.