When you're a team who is 1-4, unclear of when the next win will come, it's not too early to start talking about the 2013 draft. For the folks over at Mocking the Draft they scout and postulate all year long, and now have their first mock draft for next year.
One major criticism leveled on Carolina's 2012 draft was that while they made prudent, best-player-available picks, the Panthers failed to address any of their core needs early. Perhaps this will make for a better team overall, but at least in the immediate future they didn't really improve. Dan Kadar sees an ability for the organization to marry BPA and need with their first round pick, which he pegs to be the 6th overall:
6. Carolina Panthers - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
It was a shock to see the Panthers pass on defensive tackles completely in the 2012 NFL Draft. Carolina currently starts Ron Edwards over the nose and the 12-year veteran is certainly not the long-term solution inside. There are some concerns about Hankins' ability to control his weight (he's down to 317 this year but has been as heavy as 330 at OSU). But other than that, the Ohio State tackle can be a dominating force inside. He's good at slipping through gaps to pressure the quarterback but strong enough to hold his spot on the line.
Thus far Hankins in on pace to best his sophomore season as he has currently totaled 31 tackles (two for a loss), and one sack. Top-ten may be a touch early for a nose tackle, but like Marcell Dareus before him, Hankins has the ability to hold the gap, and be a block-shedding penetrating tackle-- a rare combination.
My personal favorite DT, Star Lotulelei goes #4 overall to Jacksonville in Kadar's mock, but Hankins is a serious talent too. I'll confess, the idea of another player who has weight struggles is petrifying to me after watching Jeff Otah, Duke Robinson, and Andre Neblett all struggle with their weight in Carolina.