South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders declared ineligible- Why does that matter to the Panthers?

Durham, NC native and University of South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders has been declared ineligible for the 2011 draft due to paperwork filed incorrectly by his agent to the NFL as he sought to achieve 'special eligibility' to enter the draft after being dismissed by USC for taking benefits from an agent.

This is the same paperwork that was properly filed by UNC's Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn who were dismissed for similar reasons to Saunders. The 6'6", 273 lb TE was at one time considered to be an absolute lock for the #1 TE taken in the 2012 draft, but character concerns dropped him to a 4th round projection in the 2011 draft, despite being a weak TE class. Why does this matter to the Carolina Panthers? For one huge reason, and we'll look at that after the jump.

Tip of the hat to ERL for his fanshot

Simply put, the dismissal of Saunders is important because of the supplemental draft. Not many people know, or think about the supplemental draft, but ostensibly it's a second selection that happens after the seven round affair without the pomp and circumstance. Teams submit a claim to a player, or a 'selection' along with a draft pick they are willing to spend in the following year; so, should the Panthers decide they want Saunders they could put a claim on him for, say... a 4th round pick and if that's the highest pick submitted then the Panthers would get Saunders and lose their 2012 4th round selection.

The benefit of this is myriad: First of all it could shape the draft. If the Panthers really like Saunders then they could avoid the TE position throughout the draft knowing they can spend a 2012 selection and still get a player that they like. Furthermore, Saunders falling already coupled with his availability in the supplemental draft means that he could be had for a 3rd or 4th round pick and you're getting potentially 1st round talent. Finally, the Panthers being 2-14 plays into this, as in the event of a tie (two teams submitting the same round claim) it would default to the Panthers.

There is a downside however, as Saunders cannot attend the combine in Indianapolis, nor can he have any form of pro-day as he was dismissed by USC. However, that doesn't stop him working out for teams privately and given he is a Durham native it would be easy for Carolina to spend a lot of time with Saunders to ascertain his desire to play football and address any character concerns. It goes without saying that Saunders is a guy with immense upside, and he could project to be a Vernon Davis- like TE... but his character concerns are there.

I welcome the comments of Gamecock fans. I've seen moments of Saunders here or there and he was a guy who was on my radar, but I don't know a ton about this kid. Do you think he could be worth a 2012 3rd or 4th round pick?


EDIT: I decided it would be prudent to look at supplemental draft selections since 1995 (courtesy of Wikipedia). Players who I believe were good picks will be in bold.

1995 Darren Benson DT 3rd Dallas Cowboys Trinity Valley Community College
1998 Mike Wahle OT 2nd Green Bay Packers Navy
1998 Jamal Williams DT 2nd San Diego Chargers Oklahoma State
1999 J'Juan Cherry DB 4th New England Patriots Arizona State
2002 Milford Brown OL 6th Houston Texans Florida State
2003 Tony Hollings RB 2nd Houston Texans Georgia Tech
2005 Manuel Wright DT 5th Miami Dolphins USC
2006 Ahmad Brooks LB 3rd Cincinnati Bengals Virginia
2007 Paul Oliver S 4th San Diego Chargers Georgia
2007 Jared Gaither OT 5th Baltimore Ravens Maryland
2009 Jeremy Jarmon DE 3rd Washington Redskins Kentucky
2010 Harvey Unga RB 7th Chicago Bears BYU
2010 Josh Brent NT 7th Dallas Cowboys Illinois

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