The 2011 Mocking the Draft Live Draft has just commenced, and as the Panthers Draft Rep, I am here to report the Panthers haul. Instead of targeting players or positions at certain points of the draft, my goal was to maintain the Best Player Available strategy throughout the draft, and more or less, I feel that I accomplished that. I highly encourage you to look at the final report of the draft, on mockingthedraft.com. It should give you an idea as to who might be available when we pick. It will also show you the environment that I made these picks in, and you can look at who you might have chosen instead. With the 1st, 65th, 97th, and 129th picks, here are the players that I was able to haul in for the Panthers in 2011.Pick # 1: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
With the first pick in the draft, I chose Patrick Peterson. Why? He was the best available and strongest candidate.
Since Richard Marshall is likely gone, one of our starting CB positions is wide open. And being that Rivera will be blitzing heavily, he will be relying on corners to play man-to-man. So there is a great need for a starting quality cornerback, and even more of a need for a great cover corner.
Although D-line candidates such as Fairley, Dareus, and Bowers, were definitely worthy of being in the top 5-10 picks, Peterson is the best player on the board and is the crown jewel of this draft class, just like Suh was last year.
Additionally, Peterson is just too good of a prospect to pass on. If any other team in the top 10 had the first overall pick, I'm positive that they would have also used it on Peterson. Also, this will likely be our only opportunity to nab an athlete and corner of this quality. Next year, and in the next ten years, I simply cannot envision having the opportunity to draft a cornerback better than this prospect. The same is simply not true for Fairley, Dareus, or Bowers. Peterson's abilities and skills are simply off the charts, and stack up with Julius Peppers in terms of a perfect marriage of elite athleticism and size.
Possibly the MOST IMPORTANT factor in picking Peterson is that he was the safest choice. Peterson has the fewest questions surrounding him, is very NFL ready, very little risk. I am more confident about him being top in his position in a few years than anyone else in this draft. Great character and personality also, somebody the Panthers would want to represent their team.
As an addition to the Panthers, Peterson would immediately replace Marshall, and possibly even provide an upgrade. He would allow Rivera and McDermott to not worry so much about coverage, and allow great flexibility in blitzing and scheming. Moreover, he would bring a tough, gritty attitude to the secondary and stiffen our overall defense. Punt returns are also a place where Peterson could be expected to immediately contribute.
Pick # 65: Christian Ballard, DE/DT, Iowa
This pick was the most surprising. Friday night, the first two rounds had ended., and unfortunately, Marvin Austin had gone to the Bears 4 picks before our 65th pick. Marcus Cannon also went to the Packers 1 pick before the 65th. Those two players were likely going to be strong candidates for the 65th pick. As I went to sleep Friday night, I was pretty settled in my choice, which would have likely been between Kenrick Ellis and Lance Kendricks (the two players who I had been targeting pre-draft to be available around our mid-round picks). If the 3rd round had been that night, I probably would've ran to the podium and announced one of the two. However, I woke up Saturday morning and reexamined the board, especially for players that would've been the BPA. Christian Ballard is the one player who I immediately knew was BPA. His name sparkled on the board, and I had to at least entertain the possibility of drafting him.
Before the draft, I hadn't really considered Ballard. He was slated to go early-mid 2nd round (from just about every scouting report and draft site), and I hadn't really seriously considered him being available then. However, I took time to reconsider Ballard, just as I thought Hurney and company would do in the situation. Ballard was BPA, and there was no way around that. If I didn't pick him, teams after me would jump at the opportunity to do so. Although I wanted Kenrick Ellis and Lance Kendricks, I chose to make a gamble here taking Ballard. The gamble was that one of these players, Ellis or Kendricks, would be available when I chose again with the 97th pick, though I didn't know which at the time. If I chose Ballard, Ellis or Kendricks, would likely be available later. If not, then I would simply have to reexamine the board.
I chose Ballard, and I think it was a wise decision. As you can see from our next pick, my gamble was accurate and paid off, as I was able to choose Ellis with the 97th pick.
The more I researched Ballard, the more I really came to find myself liking him. Although Clayborn received more attention, and is hyped as the better end, Ballard is just as good and might have a better upside. Ballard, at 6'5" and 290 lbs, played both DE and DT at Iowa, and this versatility really intrigues me. He's got the skills of a UT, but the body of a DE. He's quick off the snap, and yet strong enough to hold his own and to push the pile in. Athletic and relentless, he's known to chase RBs down, and is occasionally found 20-40 yards down field making the tackle. And perhaps best of all, most all scouts agree that Ballard has only begun to tap into his potential, and he is compared to both Tyson Alualu and Ty Warren.
I encourage you to take a look at Ballard. He's somebody that I really didn't know much about and didn't think would be there, but the more I examined, the more I am falling in love with him. Here is a really good look at him in the Wisconsin game:
For the Panthers, he could be a very interesting addition. With his size, athleticism, strength, and versatility, the Panthers can play him in a rotation with Johnson, Hardy, and Brown at 4-3DE, at UT in the 4-3, and even as a 3-4 DE when the Panthers switch to that formation.
Pick # 97: Kenrick Ellis, DT/NT, Hampton
I sweated it out, and was nervous that Ellis would go in the few picks before the 97th, however, my gamble paid off. Although Lance Kendricks went just a few picks earlier to the Atlanta Falcons, Ellis was available. At this time, he was most definitely BPA. The only other player worthy considering as BPA at this point, was Ras-I Dowling. Dowling, however doesn't really fit our new style of defense. We also just took a CB in round 1. So, Ellis was the Best Player Available here, and it was an easy pick. I know it was the right pick also, because I received "you suck" a lot and many "F U"s. It turns out that just about every team after the 97th pick was hoping that Ellis would last just a little longer so that they could pick him.
Although he played for Hampton, Ellis isn't a secret anymore. His 94 tackle, 15 TFL season ensured that. It wasn't out of the ordinary for Ellis to rack up a 15 tackle game. At 6'5" and 336 lbs, Ellis is a BIG body, and surprisingly he can move it quite well. Has great, almost brutish strength, and naturally anchors. Takes up two blockers and is still a force. One-on-one is where he gets scary. In this situation, he will completely dominate the lineman. From the footage I've seen at the NFLPA game, Ellis can simply put lineman on roller skates. The only question about him is his character, after being expelled from the South Carolina football team for drug use and such.
As a Panther, Ellis would be a welcome fit in a defensive line sorely needing a big presence like him. He would undoubtedly play NT/OT, and free up Johnson, Hardy, Brown, Ballard, and others to get to the QB/RB. In my mind, he's a perfect replacement for Kris Jenkins, a guy I think he roughly resembles.
Pick # 129: Greg Little, WR, UNC
At this point in the draft, offensive skill players were jumping off board. Wide Receivers were going fast. And being that Peterson, Ballard, and Ellis would stiffen up the defense and fill in the defensive holes, it was time to turn to offense.
Jernigan, Pettis, Cobb, and Paul had just been drafted before the 5th round, and I knew that would have to make a move at WR if I wanted one. Available WRs were Little, Doss, DeAndre Brown, Salas, Maehl, Vincent Brown among others. Greg Little, in my opinion was the best available option.
At 6'3", Little is a big WR with a NFL ready frame. Great athlete with a lot of upside and potential, being that he has only really just begun to learn his position. Raw as a route runner, but very elusive. Has spent time at RB and has great versatility.
Little, in my opinion, reminds me a lot of Brandon LaFell and Hakeem Nicks. Very athletic and very quick. Maybe a bit raw as a route runner, but really has the potential to be a number one WR in the NFL.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with how the MTD Live Draft panned out. If this were our true draft, I would be comfortable with these players and with the selections. I also feel like I was able to satisfy what we wanted. In my posts that I asked for player suggestions, Peterson, Ellis, Ballard, and Little were all suggested. Personally, the Christian Ballard pick was my favorite, simply because he was just such a surprise being available at 65 and would be a great addition.
As for the draft being more defensive dominant, I personally am fine with it. While we do have offensive needs, I'd rather not reach for them, and the value in these defensive players was unrivaled. Ellis, Ballard, and Peterson really plug any holes that we have on defense, and I think give us a strong unit. As for the offense, no player (even AJ Green) would've had a dramatic and immediate impact upon our offense. With a year's experience, I think our young players (Clausen, LaFell, Gettis, and even Edwards) will improve. Additionally, with a healthy offensive line, new coaching staff, and fresh new offensive scheme to better fit our offense, I think our offense can turn it around rather quickly.
As for the Tight End position, I felt that the value for other players was greater than TEs. Additionally, I felt comfortable with our TEs in this new system, and I think either Rosario or Barnidge could really shine. That gave me confidence that we did not absolutely HAVE to get a TE in this draft, and I'm glad that I never reached for one. I would have REALLY liked Lance Kendricks, because he would've been a perfect fit, however it was just not meant to be in this draft.
Although most of the big name players went throughout these five rounds, there are many that did not get selected. Here are some of the bigger name players that went undrafted, that could possibly have been the Panthers 6th or 7th round picks or undrafted FAs. Here is a list, although it is not comprehensive:
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Ricky Stanzi, TJ Yates, Nathan Enderle, Greg McElroy,
TEs: Rob Housler, Mike McNeil, Charlie Gantt, Lee Smith, Weslye Saunders, Jordan Cameron
FBs: Charles Clay, Henry Hynoski, Ryan Taylor, Pat DiMarco
RBs: Jamie Harper, Dion Lewis, Darren Evans, Roy Helu, Bilal Powell, Da'Rel Scott, Anthony Allen
WRs: Armon Binns, Dwayne Harris, Tori Gurley, Darvin Adams, Dane Sanzenbacher, Denarius Moore, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Ryan Whalen, Jeremy Kerley
OTs: Derek Hall, Curt Porter, Derek Newton, DJ Young, Kyle Hix, Rob McGill
OGs: Zach Hurd, David Arkin, Bryant Browning, Keith Williams
Cs: Kevin Kowalski, Zane Taylor, Alex Linnekohl, Chase Beeler
DEs: Ricky Elmore, Ryan Winterswyk, Karl Klug, Brandon Bair, Jonathan Freeny
DTs: Lawrence Guy, Harold Ayodele, Mike Blanc, Martin Parker, Ladi Ajiboye, Ollie Ogbu
LBs: Nate Irving, Josh Bynes, Wayne Daniels, Tom Keiser, Chris Carter,
S: Eugene Clifford, Shiloh Keo, Da'Norris Searcy, Dom Decicco, Brian Lainhart
CBs: Cortez Allen, Charles Brown, Chykie Brown, Mario Butler, Chris Culliver, Talmadge Jackson, Jason Teague, Davon Torrence
Beyond the draft, f I were really Marty Hurney, I would make a strong go at a few key Free Agents to strengthen our offense, in addition to resigning our core (Johnson, Kalil, Williams, Anderson, Davis...). A dynamic threat like Vincent Jackson and OG such as Davin Joseph, could really help ignite our offense. The draft doesn't have to be the key that opens up our offense.
Anyway, I hope that I represented the Panther faithful well. I had a TON of fun participating in this live draft, and I would love your feedback! How did I do? Good, Great, Terrible? Really like any of the picks, or really hate one in particular?
Is there somebody that you would have rather had?
Have any questions about how I made them or why?
Also, of the players remaining (those who went undrafted) who would you select with the Panthers 6th and 7th round picks?
Eager to hear responses....