Panthers 2011 Draft Pick Profile: DT Terrell McClain

Tino Sunseri (12) is about to have a bad day courtesy of Terrell McClain

NFL fans too often equate ability with name recognition, and vice versa. The terms 'reaches' or 'steals' are tied to whether or not a player has a name we've heard before. In this way Terrell McClain was forced to play bridesmaid during the draft to scores of fans who were hoping to hear Marvin Austin's name at the Panthers' #65 spot. The curious thing I keep running into as I look for more information on McClain is that he's seen as a prospect with a tremendous amount of upside, and a player who had success at South Florida in spite of shaky technique. 

Strengths

Though I have seen McClain listed everywhere from 291lbs to 310lbs, ultimately I am going with what he officially weighed in at the NFL combine: 6'2", 297lbs. By the numbers this makes him 6lbs heavier than 1st round pick Nick Fairley, and with comparable speed (Both ran a 4.82 forty at their pro day and combine respectively). However, those 297lbs on a 6'2" frame makes McClain a very stout DT with a low center of gravity. 

One area that keeps getting mentioned is his lower body strength. Numerous reports have listed McClain as having some of the strongest legs of the 2011 DT class, which allows him to get off the line very quickly. Though his 40 time in Indianapolis wasn't impressive (he posted a 5.02) his 10 yard split was still good, and both Mike Mayock and Warren Sapp were raving about how good McClain looked in the position drills. What this equates to at the next level is a strong, powerful player off the line who is known to be disruptive in the backfield.

More on Terrell McClain, after the jump...

Weaknesses

If you're hoping for a penetrating, pass rushing, 3-technique DT then McClain isn't that player. While he routinely got into the backfield as USF he wasn't known as a pass rusher, but more as a player who has the nose to play the run. Though he should be able to learn this ability at the next level, as it stands he doesn't possess NFL caliber pass rushing ability- an aspect to his game which surely hurt him on draft day.

The biggest knock on Terrell McClain is his technique across the board. The following quotes are from Jon Dove of 'Mocking the Draft': 

"He struggles at the point of attack due to poor balance"

"The offensive line was able to push him back and on the ground on more than a handful of plays."

(on his tackling)  "He didn't use proper technique and was often out of control."

"He lacks the proper hand placement and leverage to get a good bull rush."

In order to develop into a solid NFL starter he will need to really begin working immediately on his technique and hone his craft under an NFL staff.

Value of the Pick

When you get to the 3rd round and beyond you're not going to find any perfect prospect- it simply doesn't happen. Guys get taken in these rounds for a reason, and more often than not it's because of poor technique, work ethic, off field problems or injury. Of these four areas there's only one that can be coached up, and thankfully McClain's technique can be corrected.

He has concerns to be sure, but from where I sit McClain can develop the balance needed and sure up his tackling ability. You're probably asking why I'm so confident in this. Simply put, by all accounts he has a tremendous work ethic, also from Jon Dove:

"Effort is something that McClain possesses as his motor is non stop. You will often find him 10 yards down the field in pursuit of the ball carrier. McClain works tirelessly to disengage himself from the offensive linemen."

"Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." - Sam Lincoln

When looking at value I don't like to play the "Player X was also available!" game because, well, I defer to those with more knowledge than I have. If the Carolina Panthers get a starting DT out of a #65 pick then it will have been a valuable selection.

Starting Potential

Even though Terrell McClain has numerous aspects of his game that he needs to refine, ultimately the Carolina Panthers defensive line was so devoid of talent in 2010 that he will get a chance to step in immediately and contribute. If he displays the same worth ethic in Charlotte that he did at USF then 'The Dancing Bear' (yes, that's his nickname) will make his mark quickly.

90% chance of starting game one

Fit on the Depth Chart

Out of Derek Landri, Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, Ed Johnson and Andre Neblett it seems like a foregone conclusion that at the least he will be challenging Derek Landri from the starting spot at under tackle. Though Landri was an okay stop-gap, ultimately he's not a long term answer and I think after training camp McClain will win the job.

Final Thoughts

I've said from the outset that the selections of Terrell McClain and Sione Fua are more about being a sum of their parts than truly evaluating each individually. Separated they are good, potentially very good defensive tackles who have some real flaws to their game, but when coupled together they figure to form a serious force in the center of the line engineered to do one thing: stop the run.

So please join me in welcoming Terrell McClain, 'The Dancing Bear' to the Carolina Panthers!

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