It has been a supremely confusing lead up to the 2012 draft. Normally around this time I can cross reference the players the team have studied with insightful comments and team need leading to a board of 5-6 players I'm fairly sure the pick will be between. This year- I don't have the faintest clue. The organization have been blending the obvious with the improbable to such an extent that I'm really thrown for a loop in terms of pegging the pick.
NFL.com's Charlie Casserly put out a two round mock, and has the Panthers taking broad strokes in improving their defense.
9) Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. Most complete and safest defensive tackle in this draft.
Ron Rivera has talked about wanting an impact player- Cox fits the bill, Marty Hurney has mentioned the neccesity of finding a sure thing- Cox has that too.
In this mock Casserly is having the Panthers pass on the upside of Quinton Coples (who gets taken at #12), and the reliability of Luke Kuechly to take Cox. I'm sure a plethora of fans would be livid if Carolina passed on Coples for Cox, but if scouts are right and think Cox can be an NFL caliber pass rusher at DE then you basically have the same player in Coples and Cox, except there are no questions about Cox's effort.
Second round after the jump
40) Panthers: Mychal Kendricks, LB, Cal. He has the speed and athleticism to play outside.
If fans were upset with Cox being taken over Coples I'm sure they're livid at this selection. With Janoris Jenkins, Zach Brown and Lavonte David still available, Casserly has the Panthers taking the speedy LB from Cal. There's little doubt the option to pass on Jenkins is predicated by Albert Breer's report that Jenkins was far from a model citizen at North Alabama, continuing a pattern of behavior seen at Florida.
When it comes to Kendricks he's a player who I view as a poor man's Luke Kuechly. He's not as cerebral as Kuechly, or as gifted in anticipating and dissecting plays pre-snap, but he's an equal (if not better) athlete who is a violent player in terms of his ability to lay big hits and make game-changing plays. If you're looking for a hybrid MLB/OLB who is a stalwart tackler it's Kuechly, if you want a player who's more risk/more reward it's Kendricks. He may need to sit for a year before he's ready, but I see serious potential for him to be a steal in this draft.
Since pictures speak a thousand words here are some videos of both Cox and Kendricks.
What I really like about this video of Cox is that he's working against a talented Alabama team, often getting double-teamed working against future NFL draft picks Anthony Steen at OG, and D.J. Fluker at OT.
Next we have Kendricks, and I think this speaks for itself. It's important to note that this is a highlight video, not a scouting video, so while you wont see some of his bad moments, you will get a sense of his ability.
What do you think of this two round mock?