My pick for the Panthers at #40 in the SBN Blogger Mock Draft has now been posted over at Mocking the Draft. You can read my short explanation for the pick over there. Here I’m going to explain my reasoning behind the pick and why I passed on certain players that were still on the board. My pick was LB Lavonte David – Nebraska who I see as a WLB in the Panther defense (Scouting Report here).
I would have preferred a 3 down DE or a CB to place opposite Chris Gamble. I decided I didn’t see value at either of those spots and instead went with my third position choice, WLB. I kept going back to Ron Rivera’s stated objective to get a playmaker or two on defense. The playmaking positions in the Panthers 4-3 defense are typically DE, WLB and either safety position. I’m using broad strokes here so don’t think I’m slighting MLB Jon Beason.
Looking at the guys on the board two DE’s are rated at 1st round prospects have slide to #40: Andre Branch (Clemson) and Nick Perry (USC). Yet both players project as 3-4 OLBs and I’m still feeling burned from the prior ‘tweeners’ we have drafted that didn’t or have not panned out to date (Brown & Norwood). I don’t see either Branch or Perry bringing more upside as 3 down 4-3 DEs than Greg Hardy or Eric Norwood at this point.
There are several good CBs available in Jeron Holsey (VT), Josh Robinson (Cen FL) and even Chase Minnifield (UVA) but again, none seem to be locks to start over Brandon Hogan or Darius Butler. Minnifield has some nice size but there are the injury concerns.
That leaves the OG position which as it turns out won the popular vote for this pick. I only put one option at OG in my poll Kesemele but many pointed out he was not the top OG on the board at this point, that XXX is a better prospect. I can’t argue with the need at RG or the notion it would be nice to plug that hole with a guy that could be there the next 4 to 8 years. But I kept coming back to that ‘impact’ player that Rivera covets. Outside of landing DeCastro I can’t see an impact coming from a RG in the manner to which I think Rivera was speaking. Hence in spite of the popular vote for a OG I passed.
I know it’s been a few seasons since we’ve seen what Thomas Davis can do from the WLB spot, the impact he can have behind the line of scrimmage and in coverage. He used to blanket TEs and RBs in a fashion we haven’t seen since. I look at Lavonte David and I see a lot of Davis. He’s not quite the athlete Davis is, he needs to add some mass to his frame. But the fact he is starting small like Davis did and has already added 7 pounds without affecting his speed says he could fill the WLB spot when Davis no longer can.
Update: Had to add the picture of David nailing Jake Locker...look at Locker's face