Otah injury could shape Panthers draft strategy

Matt Kalil is already garnering some lofty comparisons as he paves the way to be the concensus #1 OL in the 2012 draft. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I don't think we'll ever truly know the reason why Jeff Otah can't stay healthy. Some believe it's his weight, others peg his lack of motivation in the weight room, regardless of the reason the Panthers are now without their starting right tackle for another long period of time, and the writing is definitely on the wall.

While the public face of the organizations presents hope that Otah can return the reality is that a team's offensive line needs to remain a constant. The more in flux a unit is the worse they are at protecting a quarterback. For whatever reason Otah has kept our OL in flux since he was drafted in a way that is detrimental to the team. 

This season we've had people discuss at length our similarities to the Detroit Lions moving forward, but if we're going to compare the good then we also need to take the bad- in this case a complete inability to protect the quarterback. This and more... after the jump.

Matthew Stafford has missed almost as many games as he's started due to the Lions being unable to protect their #1 pick. Now it seems they can keep him upright, but it was only a few months ago that fans wondered if he would be more Tim Couch than Tom Brady. This is the fate the Panthers could see if they don't find adequate help on their offensive line.

While we talk at length about the need at defensive tackle, wide receiver or cornerback there's been very little discussion about a rapidly aging offensive line. Before the 2012 season three of the Panthers five starters will be over the age of 30. While the talent might be far better on the OL than around the rest of team it's undeniable that with two stellar running backs and a new soon-to-be elite QB there is value in keeping the OL strong- enter Matt Kalil.

The Panthers will be drafting early in the draft, that much is sure. Unless Carolina run the table they'll be taking someone in the top 10, and nobody is more elite at their position than the left tackle out of USC. The younger Kalil is as technically sound a left tackle as we've seen and his ability is reminiscent of All-Pro LTs past like Joe Thomas and Jake Long. If you're looking at this draft afraid of the bust-ability of top WRs, or concerned there isn't the top end talent to support a 1st round DT then Kalil could have just leapfrogged to the top of the Panthers draft board.

One thing's for sure: It's hard to deny the pocket wouldn't be clean with the Kalil brothers protecting Cam.

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