It has become old-hat to denigrate Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay as rabble rousers who get more predictions wrong than right. However, the undeniable truth is that everyone leading up to the draft gets more wrong than right; the success rate for pundits picking the draft is under 30% and the rate of a team picking the most successful player when they draft is less than that. What I'm getting at is: everyone is basically a screw-up. So, you can either disregard anything these guys have to say, or you can still listen to their opinion and choose to take it with a grain of salt, rather than omniscience. I elect to do the latter.
Yesterday via Twitter it was Evan Silva of Rotoworld who was giving us all sorts of draft info from the two lightning rods (I believe the kids call it 'dropping knowledge'). Only some of it pertained to prospects the Panthers could be looking at, so I'll leave it to you to head over to his Twitter feed if you want to read it all.
We'll look at all the juicy info... after the jump
On Michael Brockers:
Kiper on Michael Brockers: "If he would've gone back, would've been a top-5 pick. Kind of guy teams roll dice on earlier than expected."
As it stands this seems to be the general consensus on Brockers. Is his game flawed? Absolutely, but it's for that reason he could easily be available around the Panthers' pick. The thing that's hard to predict when it comes to upside is that we have examples of players succeeding, and examples of them failing.
The New York Giants decided to take the upside route when they drafted Jason Pierre Paul in the 1st round in 2010, despite the more 'reliable' Derrick Morgan being on the board. The result was that the G-men needed to wait a year for JPP to mature, but they got a 16.5 sack monster.
Conversely we have someone like Vernon Gholston who was seen as an upside pick, and was a complete bust. There's just no predicting how these things will go. One thing we do know, however, is that the Panthers are willing to gamble. Cam Newton was not regarded as a 'safe pick' by any outlet, and the majority of NFL teams thought the Panthers were making too big a risk in taking Cam, but it was Hurney and company who came up trumps; keep this in mind as the evaluation of Brockers continues, as I truly believe he could become a Suh-like defensive tackle, but it's going to take time with him.
On Dre Kirkpatrick:
McShay on #Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick: "I think he's great in zone, physical, aggressive. Not a big playmaker when the ball's in the air."
In a weird way Dre K sounds like a bizzaro version of Chris Gamble; both are large, strong and athletic corners, but neither excels at playing the ball in the air. Gamble is also far better playing man coverage than he is in zone, where he tends to get lost a little, whereas Dre K is the opposite.
My concern with Kirkpatrick is exactly the same as the issues I had with Patrick Peterson a year ago: namely that I think both are better suited at FS than as lockdown corners. The problem with this is that we're talking about spending a top-ten pick on a position conversion. Sure, it worked well with Thomas Davis when we took him high and moved him, but it is a risky proposition.
The flip side (and it's a big one) is that Sherrod Martin was abysmal in 2011. For whatever reason he was lost, and unless he improves leaps and bounds I'm not sure his future is anything beyond special teams.
On Justin Blackmon:
Kiper says Blackmon is worthy of a top-5 pick. "He is a kid who works hard, Mike Gundy raves about his work ethic. His attention to detail."
There's one thing that you can't teach: Work ethic and attention to detail. It's this characteristic that made Cam Newton a star, and the quality Dwayne Jarrett lacked that turned him into a bust.
We've discussed ad nauseum the value of drafting a wide receiver (or lack thereof), but I can't help but see the value in taking Blackmon, should the stars align and he falls to us. As it stands the Panthers still don't have a true #2 receiver, nor do they have a replacement should something happen to Steve Smith. The best way to extend Smitty's career is to grant him his wish from two seasons ago and find someone else willing to be 'the guy', letting his role transition.
As it stands there's slim chance he would fall to 8 or 9, but stranger things have happened- especially if a WR needy team like Cleveland elects to trade up for RG3.
On Russell Wilson:
Kiper on Russell Wilson: "I think he'll have a Seneca Wallace-type career where you can bring him off the bench and he'll add a spark."
While the Panthers don't need a spark, having a 'Seneca Wallace-type' on the bench seems absolutely perfect behind Cam Newton. With Ron Rivera already seeing the value in taking a player who has similar skills to Cam Newton he's definitely someone to watch.
On Luke Kuechly:
McShay on #BostonCollege LB Luke Kuechly: "As instinctive a linebacker as I've ever evaluated." Compares to Cowboys ILBSean Lee.
Kiper on Kuechly: "Tackling machine. And a lot of those were legit, not juiced up by PR stats. Could go as high as 11 (or) Eagles at 15."
This is my 'watch out' pick thus far, by this I mean 'If the Panthers move back, watch out'. Kuechly to me looks like Jon Beason 2.0, and while he played middle linebacker for BC I'll be honest, I love the kid.
What Beason does so well is have an almost unnatural understanding at the LoS, it always seems like his instinct and first step are right where the offense is going- I see the same from Kuechly. He's a smart, no-nonsense football player who can make a huge impact on the game. Like Beason I think he's going to fall because of his size in the weight-biased NFL. Teams will look at his 6'3", 237 lb frame and decide the can't play MLB in a 4-3, and he's too little to play ILB in a 3-4.
I see a guy with incredible lateral speed and great instincts. If the Panthers are looking for a Thomas Davis heir apparent it's this guy, and I just have a feeling he's going to be a 'Ron Rivera guy'. I believe that when it's all said and done whoever gets him (provided it's outside the top 10) will get the steal of the draft.
McShay's top 10:
McShay latest top-10 mock (No trades): 1) Luck 2) Kalil 3) Reiff 4) RG3 5) Claiborne 6) Blackmon 7) Coples 8) Ingram 9) Brockers 10) Upshaw.
So, there we go... if you're looking for a BPA list here is McShays. I'll admit that I am stunned he has Reilly Reiff that high, I'll be very curious to see his evaluation because as it stands I see him as a future RG, not a LT (which would warrant the lofty rating). Other than that I think Upshaw is an intriguing pick too for his pass rushing and play making skills.
Coples will be fascinating to watch, because everything said about Brockers applies to him too. Personally, guys like Coples and Julius Peppers infuriate me. I think nobody has any idea how good Quinton Coples could be because he never really showed us his 'A game' in college; similarly, I always felt like Peppers was holding back. If someone is able to get in his head and make his work ethic fall in line with his talent, then I think he could be a 15 sack guy- but as it stands I think it's too great a risk.