Panthers Rivera Seeking Newton-Like Impact Player on Defense

Ron Rivera has a model for the type of impact player he is looking for in this draft

Just as rookie QB Cam Newton led the Panther offense' rise from worst (32nd) to 7th overall Panthers head coach Ron Rivera now seeks a defensive player who can make a similar impact in 2012. Now when I say 'impact' I'm not just being rhetorical. I mean impact as in quantifiable and measurable. So what do I mean by that?

You may recall during the 2011 season Rivera when asked about how a particular defensive player performed he would mention a specific example number of impact plays he counted by the player. For example I believe when asked about Dan Conner Rivera said he counted 7 impact plays if my memory serves me right.

So what does Rivera consider as an 'impact' play. I can only make an educated guess as to a reasonable metric that I admit has known flaws. But hey, that's never stopped me before from making wild evaluations based on loosely defined axioms. So here is how I define impact plays based on the available stats I could find:

'Rivera' Defensive Impact plays: The cumulative sum of sacks, forced fumbles, INTs, passes defensed and tackles for loss.

So I decided to apply the above derived metric to the top 11 defensive players we have discussed as possible 1st round picks by the Panthers and I have the surprising results after the jump...

So here is the sum of impact plays as I think Ron Rivera would mostly defined it.

Rank

Name

School

Panther Position

Sacks

Forced Fumbles

INTs

Passes Defensed

Tackle for Loss

Total Impact Plays

1

Whitney Mercilus

Illinois

DE

14.5

9

0

1

19.5

44

2

Vinny Curry

Marshall

DE

11

7

0

0

22

40

3

Melvin Ingram

South Carolina

DE

10

0

2

2

15

29

4

Courtney Upshaw

Alabama

DE

8.5

2

1

0

17

28.5

5

Quinton Coples

UNC

DE

7.5

3

0

2

15

27.5

6

Jake Bequette

Arkansas

DE

10

5

0

0

10.5

25.5

7

Devin Still

Penn St

DT

4.5

1

0

0

17

22.5

8

Antonio Allen

South Carolina

S

1

4

3

2

9.5

19.5

9

Morris Claiborne

LSU

CB

0

0

6

12

1

19

10

Luke Kuechly

BC

LB

0

0

3

3

12

18

11

Michael Brockers

LSU

DT

2

0

1

2

9.5

14.5

The one gap in the metric involves 3rd down stops, an impact play I'm sure Rivera includes in his own assessment, I just don't have easy access to that data. So let's discuss the results above.

My first surprise easily was the total for DE Whitney Mercilus, who I knew had a good year but I didn't know how good. He and DE Vinny Curry were essentially in a class by themselves. The next thing I noticed is that the top 5 are all defensive ends. This essentially supports James Dator's Occam's Razor post from yesterday that the simple answer to what Rivera truly desires is a passing rusher.

Whitney-mercilus-p1_mediumpicture via i2.cdn.turner.com

Yet rather than say we need a DE like Coples who chanels former Panther and fellow UNC player Julius Peppers. I think instead he goes for a player in the mold of Shawne Merriman. Both players go 6'4" and 265 lbs. Would the Panthers take Mercilus at 8-9? Seems a little high at this point but you never know given its pre-combine. The Impact scoring also reflects the general perception of Quinton Coples who came in last of the five DEs. Notice too that 11th on the list is the current mock draft pundit favorite to the Panther DT Michael Brockers.

As I was doing the research for this post I ran into a couple players I was unfamilar with who scored well with this metric and might be good mid or even late round picks.

Jake Beguette is the type of player that might slip to the 4th round in this draft. He scored well with this metric though he was a bit of feast or famine player. He said to have high intelligence and character, another reason he could attract a coach like Rivera.

I was also surprised to see Gamecock safety Antonio Allen make a showing on the Impact Scoring metric. Allen is another mid-round prospect who might be a safety in mold of Chris Harris in 2008 with his 8 forced fumbles. Allen played the spur position for USC but before you get Thomas Davis in your head I doubt he'll be able to put on the weight to play WLB.

Images_medium

via t3.gstatic.com

A couple other big names have respectable impact scores such as DT Devin Still, CB Morris Claiborne and LB Luke Kuechly. Yet I think one key thing the results show is that its the linemen who have the most opportunity to make impact plays so if Ron Rivera wants an impact player

As much as we love Morris Claiborne a shutdown corner forces the ball to go elsewhere and therefore limits the opportunity for impact plays, in theory anyway. Claiborne still managed to score well on the measure.

So what do you think of the Rivera Defensive Impact Plays measure? Do you think it may reflect how Rivera evaluates his defensive prospects? We know he measures these types of stats in game and not just later in the film room. That says its something he is very in tune with during the game. I think Rivera would like to get more than one impact player.

How about this draft scenario: The Panthers trade back into the middle of the 1st round and garner a 2nd or 3rd round pick (and maybe another late round pick if want) and select Mercilus. How would that one rub you?

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