Has There Ever Been A Draft More Up In The Air For The Panthers Than This One????
1. There is so much early talent in this draft that fits Carolina's needs.
Our Biggest Needs Are: (In this Order) DT, CB, OT and WR
A. Defensive Tackle: IMO this is our position which we have the largest need in. Statistically, in passing yards and rushing yards our defense was ranked 24th and 25th respectively. By these rankings, our needs are about even, but from watching all the games this season, every Panthers fan will see we were beaten on the ground. (With the exception of Green Bay) This draft is completely full of talented DT's available in every round of the draft. From Kheeston Randall Rd 3 all the way up to Devon Still Top 20.
These are the DT's I consider 1st and 2nd round talent and will list them from best to worst.
1. Devon Still 6'4 310lbs Penn State (Best All Around). Athletic Monster, is all I have to say. He has prototypical NFL DT size. Ndamukong Suh was 6'4 307 lbs. Still had 10 TFL's and 4 sacks. Not outstanding numbers, but he missed two games this year. From game tape one can see that Still has the strength to push back Lineman and collapse the pocket, but enough speed and acceleration to chase the quarterback in the backfield and be effective against the run. I believe his closest comparison to a current NFL player is Green Bay DT B.J. Raji. They are both the greatest against the run, but have the talents to still get pressure up the middle on a pass rush. Devon Still will require a double team leaving one less guy to double team Charles Johnson giving Carolina the pass rush we've missed since we lost J.P. Please, check out these highlights of Still if you need any more convincing.
2. Jerel Worthy 6'3 310 lbs Michigan State. (Pass Rushing Machine) Jerel Worthy has awesome hands and great speed to get to the quarterback. He has a very strong power move to get around the guards or center. He would be my number one choice but he doesn't work very well shedding blocks laterally to stop the run. He is a fantastic pass rusher though. In some of my research, I have watched him be stood up by lineman from larger conferences. One year of NFL level weight training will fix that though. If Still's combine is very unimpressive, Worthy would be a fine replacement as a first round defensive tackle.
3. Fletcher Cox 6'4 295 lbs Mississippi State (Raw Talent) Fletcher Cox is a great example of a player who only uses his natural ability not any coached skill to play his position. At Mississippi, Cox was able to use his superior strength and physicality to get to the quarterback of these smaller schools. He's a little bit light for a DT, but that can be changed. He's definitely a project player I would love to pick up in the 2nd if he is available and if we go CB round 1. Cox had 14 1/2 TFL's and 5 sacks, a very solid year for a 21 year old junior. THIS PLAYER HAS A TON OF UPSIDE!!!!!! His natural ability will only be amplified by the quality coaching and new techniques he picks up from training camp and preseason ball.
DT Discussion: I know some of you are screaming Michael Brockers, but really how many of us have heard of him except in the last month??? Believe me, I want the best pick we can get, but I see nothing from this guy. He has bad hands, terrible power and finesse moves, and very average strength. He's gets stood up all the time. The only sack I've seen from him was a coverage sack. Which (for those who do not know) is basically the quarterback bounced around in the pocket for way too long because no one was open and eventually somebody got to him. Even Vernon Gholston was a beast in college, so why are we even looking at this 21 year old bust. About Brandon Thompson all I can see is a clone of Corey Liuget. Liuget did nothing this year. I really don't want him at all. Honestly,If we go D-Line first round Quinton Coples should be our man. We would have to have the 8th pick for sure because Miami will definitely pick him up now that Jason Taylor has retired. Wow is he a beast. He manhandled everyone at the senior bowl. I watched a few UNC games this year and his presence is felt on every down. DE isn't our biggest need but I'd rather have him than anyone else round 1for defensive line. This kind of talent is rare, and we need another pass rusher that is consistent. Greg Hardy showed a few flashes this year, but he couldn't keep it up.
B. Cornerback: Although there are many very solid CB's becoming free agents this year, the Panthers have always wanted to get talent through the draft. There is just as much 1st and 2nd round talent among the CB's as was among the DT class. Here is how I rank the corners in this draft.
1. Morris Claiborne 6'0 185 lbs Lousiana State (Most Experience) What can you say bad about this guy? That he played for the number two defense in college football? Or, that he racked up five interceptions his sophomore year and six in his junior year? You cannot find much fault in him. He has good size and all the tape shows that he is pretty fast. Claiborne proved himself in 2010, when he took the majority of passes from opposing teams when he played alongside Patrick Peterson. Offensive coordinators were not going to throw to Peterson, but at the same time they were still scared throwing to Claiborne at the number two spot. The biggest perk I have seen in Claiborne is that he was primarily a man coverage corner. Consequently, he would fit very well and would make an immediate impact on what was shown last year to be a very weak defense. The only trouble with Claiborne is that nobody believes he will fall to 8 or 9 in the draft; because if Tampa drafts Richardson, Claiborne will be wearing red and gold in Washington.
2. Chase Minnifield 6’0 185 lbs University of Virginia.(Shut Down Corner) Without a doubt the most underrated player in this whole draft. He has the size, and has shown to have the speed to be an elite corner. He has outstanding body control while in the air. He plays excellent in coverage, running man and zone very well. He also has the stats to prove his elite status. Minnifield was ranked second nationally among active career leaders for interceptions with thirteen. What has really stood out to me about this player was that his father was a four time pro bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns. His father obviously knew how to play the game, so like any father would do; he would pass on his knowledge to his son, to build up his skills. Chase will not go as high as the other corners in the draft, but that does not mean he is not as talented if not more talented than his peers. If the Panthers could steal him with their second round pick, we would be set at CB for many years to come. My perk for Minnifield would be his excellent coverage skills. If you look at this draft analysis from his 2010 season, it will make you a believer. The only negative that he shows is that he will not be effective against stopping the run because he is not a solid tackler.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick 6’2 190 lbs Alabama.(Elite Measurables) If the draft was based on just measurables alone, this guy would be the number one rated CB. When most NFL corners are lucky to be 6 foot, some sites have Dre listed at 6’3! There are very few corners who have this elite size at this position, and that is what has made Kirkpatrick so desirable on draft day. He was a very strong tackler, but he doesn’t have very strong statistics from pass defense. He only had three interceptions for his career. Based on my investigation, Dre only had two major downsides: one, he played in an off coverage zone at Alabama; and two, draft scouts were not sure about his speed. Sometimes game tape can be very deceptive, and it’s very difficult to determine a player’s speed, but with a 40 yard dash time in the 4.4 region, it would not surprise me if this player did not make it out of the top ten.
CB Discussion: Definitely the hardest position to for me to rank in this draft, with ranking one and two being the most difficult. Now, before you decide to butcher my opinion about this ranking in comments, remember this is just solely MY opinion. What pushed Morris Claiborne over the top for me to number one was his experience. He got the majority of the targets in 2010 and still was highly successful, and that shows a lot about his skill and endurance. He played at a high level for the entire season 2010 racking up five interceptions. There is praise to be said about all of my top three corners, but the list does not stop there. If my rankings continued, Brandon Boykin (UGA), Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina), and Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina) would rank fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively. I don’t like Janoris Jenkins’ ability in coverage and that is why I have not mentioned him. He appears to only have nickel corner potential from a coverage stand point. Stephon Gilmore also stands out to me a lot because South Carolina’s defense was ranked second in passing yardage.
C. Offensive Tackle: Carolina’s O-Line took a beating last year and was hammered by injury. With Jeff Otah’s health in question and Jordan Gross’ age becoming a concern, Carolina needs to begin to look into the future for a strong offensive lineman. Carolina’s line has been the bench mark for excellence in recent years with the emergence of pro bowl center Ryan Kalil and the continued excellent play of Jordan Gross; Carolina needs to continue this tradition. With a young quarterback, the most important thing to do is make him feel comfortable in the pocket. This will not only make him more successful as a pocket passer, but it will also expedite his development.
1. Matt Kalil 6’6 295 lbs Southern California. Could anyone imagine the duo of Kalil and Kalil on offensive line? Carolina’s offensive line would be stout! Along with the benefit of having a veteran presence like Jordan Gross to help in his transition to professional football, he would have his brother there to take time and work with him to fully understand the offense. Back to the real world; it is highly unlikely Matt will fall out of the top 5, but he did fall to the 8th or 9th pick, Carolina would be stupid to miss this pick. Kalil was a two year starter at offensive tackle at USC, and helped to anchor a line that led to one of the best passing offenses in college football.
2. Jonathan Martin 6’6 305 lbs Stanford. Jonathan Martin really stands out to me because of the type of offense they ran at Stanford. Martin was a part of one the greatest examples of the “pro style” offense in college football. Stanford also ran a very sophisticated offense under the control of Andrew Luck, meaning that it takes a profound understanding of every part of the play to be successful on the Stanford O-Line. Martin shows he has all the skills of an NFL caliber lineman. He has quickness, great hands, and great strength to fend off defenders.
3. Riley Reiff 6’6 300 lbs Iowa. This guy is a very solid pro prospect. He has all the things that make a great NFL lineman. The only things I do not like about this guy are the skill of the players he is up against, and his quickness and burst off of the line. Some people are very picky about what conference they draft from, and at this position it pays to be concerned. The problem that persists from a weak division lineman is that they are not playing against players that are good enough to show a good assessment of their skills. Now, there are definitely exceptions to this rule, but it just gives analysts something else to think about. Reiff shows excellent footwork, but does not always show the quickness to stay with some of the faster defensive ends. That’s why he is number three on my list.
OT Discussion: This is pretty clear cut, and it goes along with most other boards. If Carolina decides to go offensive line on day one, I’m not saying I’ll be disappointed, but I think we could have addressed a bigger need.
Wide Receiver: Steve Smith has been begging for somebody to take the attention off of him for years now, and maybe it is time for Carolina to listen. Though Smith is coming off of one of the biggest seasons of his career, his longevity as a threat is now in question because of his age. Here is who I rank as the best receivers in college football.
1. Justin Blackmon 6’1 215 lbs Oklahoma State.(Superb Route Runner) Well, the stats don’t lie. The two time Biletnikoff winner has proven that he was the number one wide receiver in college football. His amazing 3,000+ receiving yards and forty touchdowns in three years have proven that he is the best. Justin Blackmon’s stock is so high even if he runs a slow 40 yard time he will still go top 10 and possibly even top 5. I highly doubt Carolina will get a shot at this pick, if they do, the opportunity is too good to pass up.
2. Michael Floyd 6’3 224 lbs Notre Dame(Fitz Jr). Floyd is my favorite wide receiver prospect. I have him at number two because it is impossible to justify him beating out such outrageous from Blackmon. However, I think he has just as much skill. He has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald because of how he goes after the jump ball. He has good hands and is very solid in his route running abilities. Michael Floyd is a force to be reckoned with in the passing game. Floyd has amassed over 3,000 yards as well and thirty seven touchdowns also, but in four years. His speed will affect his draft stock, but if he runs in the low 4.5s or better he will be a definite day one guy.
3. Alshon Jeffery 6’4 229 lbs South Carolina(Jump Ball Specialist) It is hard to knock what Jeffery did at Carolina despite the lack of a solid quarterback. Jeffery is a huge guy, his large frame and jumping ability make him a perfect red zone target. Many sportscasters have made the statement that Jeffery has the best hands in all of college football. Jeffery’s numbers are not prolific by any means, but he did put up a very respectable 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010. The major fault many analysts find with Jeffery is his work ethic. He has shown up to workouts this year over weight, and it is hurting his draft stock considerably. No team wants a slouch. If Jeffery is however committed to bettering himself and the people around him Carolina would have an amazing duo with Smitty and Jeffery if we can get him in the second round.
WR Discussion: Wide receiver is definitely not our biggest need. If we could address it in the second round by picking up Jeffery I would not complain. Overall, this is a very clear cut breakdown of the wide receivers Carolina is in the market for. (We already have a speedster with Smith so no use for Kendall Wright)
Now that I have broken down each position, I’ll put up the draft combinations for the Panthers that I thing would be most beneficial, starting with my favorite.
Possible Drafts: A. 1st Quinton Coples DE UNC
2nd Chase Minnifield CB UVA
B.1st Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
2nd Fletcher Cox DT Miss. St.
C. 1st Jonathan Martin OT Stanford
2nd Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina
I’ve decided to have two defensive mocks because most of our needs are on defense. If the Panthers go offensively, then C is my favorite pair. Let me know what you think! Leave your questions and comments below!