As a Panthers fan, the 2012 Scouting Combine is as exciting as any I can remember. We're picking in the top-10 of the Draft while carrying an avalanche of momentum into 2012.
For a guy who got accustomed to rooting for Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen on Sundays, having Franchise Quarterback Cam Newton on the scene makes each defeat that much easier to find hope in and each victory that much more thrilling. Naturally, the team's fanbase is excited to add some playmakers to this mix and see what SuperCam can do with a season under his belt.
Tomorrow's not soon enough, quite frankly.
Even the stuff that's always been such a downer this time of year doesn't seem as maddening now. There's still a hole in our draft board this year, but it's only in the third round - AND we actually got something tangible as a result of doling that pick to Chicago for TE Greg Olsen. Not such a bummer.
Watching the first two days of the Combine was a little bit of an appetizer while I waited for the defense to be trotted out and become my main course Monday and Tuesday, but there are still several things that made strong impressions on me thus far.
1) "Man, I'd Give My Left Tackle!"
It was apparent to me USC Offensive Tackle Matt Kalil - or "little brother" as Panthers Pro Bowl Center Ryan Kalil calls him - was the most elite prospect at the event. His rare speed, athleticism and fluidity had more to do with this than his brother being a leader on our o-line already.
At least, I'd like to think that last part were true. Then again, the combination of the two begs the question - how much? Man, I'd love to have him protecting Cam's blindside and anchoring our line with his brother until about 2025! He was awesome, logging a sub-5 second 40, 30 bench press reps and looking fantastic in lineman drills. (More after the jump...)
In fact, NFL Network's Rich Eisen reported Ryan Kalil pondered whether there was anyway to lobby for his brother to join the Panthers. I got excited and checked out Kalil's Twitter account, but didn't find the tweet Eisen was talking about.
An undertone to this imagining was my disappointment with several guys who were also on my radar as potential draft choices for the Panthers. Riley Reiff, Mike Adams and Mitch Schwartz all hurt their stock in my mind. Bench presses got all three of them. You've got to be strong to redirect defensive linemen in the NFL.
Out of those I watched, Schwartz is still my favorite to join the team, but it's most likely solely because his brother Geoff is a starting guard on the team, and I've accepted that.
I think Stanford's Jon Martin remains in that top echelon, though, and is still an outside contender for our first pick.
2) They Sure Don't Make Wide Receivers Like They Used To...
Is it just me, or are these guys all either incredibly big or incredibly fast compared to the Irving Friars, Art Monks and Rod Smiths I grew up with? Sometimes both.
There were about 10-12 guys who were 6'3" to 6'5" tall, and about 10-12 who ran a sub-4.4 40 yard dash. This is awe-inspiring.
The Combine got off to a strong start for me in this department, as South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey showed up nearly 40 pounds lighter than malicious unnamed sources had reported about him. He's definitely in the back of our mind as April approaches, in my opinion.
Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill also may have worked out into the first round with his shocking 4.36 40. This from a 6'4" guy who probably plays around 220. He also laid out for a deep ball during a sideline drill, tumbling head-over-heels and hopping up with the ball in hand.
I see shades of Megatron in Hill, another Georgia Tech wideout who's doing quite well in the NFL.
3) Hanna the Barbarian And Other Intriguing Tight Ends
It's not a position of need, per se, but I still kept a keen eye on the tight ends to see what was there. I can report: right much.
Oklahoma's James Hanna in particular had flashed to me when I watched him in college, but I kind of chalked it up to "he plays at Oklahoma and has a good quarterback." After watching him run a sub-4.5 40 and look remarkably fluid catching the ball, however, I'm not so sure it's not the player instead of the game.
Some other real standouts among the tight ends included Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette, Deangelo Peterson of LSU and Michael Egnew of Missouri. Dwayne Allen of Clemson was disappointing overall.
4) Why Pay A Player Who Doesn't Play?
This is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but I don't like quarterbacks auditioning without throwing a pass or wide receivers not letting us get an accurate measure of their straight-line speed.
In fact, unless the Panthers told him not to so he can fall to us in the second round, I was disappointed I didn't get to see Jeffrey answer his doubters and break 4.5 in the 40. He has been one of my favorites thus far in the draft process though he elected not to run at the Scouting Combine.
In my book, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck choosing not to throw just proves how superior Cam Newton is to them, since he went out there and tossed the pigskin around and did everything asked of him. The fact they keep cutting away from guys I'm interested in at skill positions to replay one or the other's long jump or 40 yard dash is really just icing on the hate for me.
5) Radiohead Is The Best Band To Listen To While Watching 40-yard Dashes.
Does this require explanation other than to say Radiohead is an British rock and roll band and not exactly what all the kids are listening to nowadays?
6) BRING ON THE DEFENSE!!!
Watching 40-yard dashes and rosterbating about bringing new weapons on-board is well and nice, but we gotta go defense at or near the top of this draft and I "CAN'T WAIT" (should be read in N.Y. Jets LB Bart Scott's "excited" voice) to see the defensive prospects get on the field for workouts.
"Happy hunting!" to all you fellow amateur Carolina Panthers scouts.