It might feel too early to be talking about the 2013 draft, but NFL teams are well in to their scouting process by now, trying to get a better sense of the players they might target next April. Every four weeks CSR will take a look at the three prospects you should try to watch on Saturday, and see if you like them as much as the pundits do.
Thus far the Panthers have been targeting a lot of schools on the East Coast, as well as West, spending significant time in the state of Utah and Virginia to scout, though these are only the visits I've heard about. Today we're looking at three players at 'need' positions who would help the team immediately.
Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle– Utah
The Carolina Panthers have been in desperate need of a Star on the defensive line (see what I did there?). At 6-4, 320-pounds the native Tongan is somewhat of a draft enigma. Some believe he'll be the first overall pick, having a Ndamukong Suh-like effect on the NFL, while others think he'll still grow into an elite defensive tackle, but fall in the Panthers' laps.
Thus far he's amassed 18 tackles, 1 sack and 2 passes defended in four games, which puts his senior season to easily out-pace a junior year that had Lotulelei finish with 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks. A force in the middle, athletic, and has a hard-to-pronounce name? Sounds right up the Panthers' alley.
Eric Reid, Free Safety- LSU
It doesn't take a gifted analyst to see how lacking the Carolina Panthers are at their FS position. In 2012 Charles Godfrey has stepped up, but his partner, Haruki Nakamura has not been up to snuff. At 6-2, 208-pounds Reid has the size Rivera loves out of his DBs, and plays with a serious chip on his shoulder (sometimes to his own detriment).
There were post-draft rumors that the Carolina Panthers were going to take Mark Barron with their 1st round pick, provided he was still on the board. After years with Eric Weddle in San Diego, it's clear that Rivera puts a premium on the safety position, and will look for an upgrade.
On the season Eric Reid has been spectacular, totaling 26 tackles, 1 INT and 3 PDef in five games. He could be just what the doctor ordered for Carolina.
Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle- Texas A&M
This is the pick that freaks out the fan-base. Should the Carolina Panthers elect to protect Cam Newton as their #1 priority over defense, a player like Joeckel could be the pick, particularly as a BPA option.
At 6-6, 310-pounds he has the size and ability to play both left, and right tackle. This offers Carolina to immediately upgrade their RT position, while easing him into the NFL to be Jordan Gross's replacement on the left side. In turn, allowing the veteran to move to RT where he could continue to be an effective starter for the Panthers.
Failing to upgrade the defense would sting, and likely put the Panthers on the ugly side of .500, rather than being their missing piece. However, there are worse ideas than devoting a lion's share of resources to supporting Cam Newton.