Yes, I know it hasn't been a full year yet- and as such evaluating any players is ludicrously premature, but hey... it's something different to talk about before Thursday, right?
For the Carolina Panthers the 2011 draft will forever be remembered as the most important draft in team history. The first time the organization have ever had the #1 overall pick, and as it stands they knocked it out of the park. Today, however, we're looking at the 9th and 40th selections, both of which were held by the Dallas Cowboys.
1.9- Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Projected top 10 pick
A lot of the time when you hear about an offensive tackle prospect having 'amazing athleticism' it tends to be synonymous with a player who doesn't have the technical skill to be regarded as a top-tier prospect. However, in Smith's case he had good ability and paired it with amazing athleticism.
Where the Cowboys went right: They made a smart pick to solidify their offensive line longterm.
Where the Cowboys went wrong: They didn't, Smith looks like a stud at the next level.
End result: Tyron Smith made the all-Rookie team from both the Sporting News, and the Pro Football Weekly rankings. Dallas seems to have found themselves a long-term OT with upside and room to grow.
Where the Panthers could also go right: Imagine if someone with Tyron Smith's athletic ability also had an elite football IQ. You'd have Matt Kalil. I'm hoping analysts have their finger on the pulse enough that Kalil could potentially fall to Carolina, but I realize that's probably not the case. Both Smith and Kalil have astounding foot-speed that help them in pass blocking, and pulling in the run game.
Second round after the jump
2.40- Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina
Projected fringe 2nd-3rd round pick
The Dallas Coyboys with Jason Garrett at the helm were committed to helping their offense early on, but it was the second round they looked to bolster the defense with the selection of a 2nd and 3rd round linebacker in Carter and Sean Lee respectively.
Where the Cowboys went right: They wanted to fill their need for a linebacker with an athletic weakside backer.
Where the Cowboys went wrong: Dallas fell into the trap of bad mechanics. Time will tell with this pick, but linebackers with poor tackling form don't usually work out.
End result: Carter didn't get a lot of playtime in 2011 due to injury, he finished the season with 8 tackles.
How the Panthers could make the same mistake: While they're somewhat different players the film on Bruce Carter is a carbon copy of this year's 2nd round UNC linebacker Zach Brown. I don't mean to keep piling on Brown, but if the shoe fits. In order to become a proper NFL linebacker he'll need to stop arm tackling and learn how to wrap up. As Charles Godfrey has shown us- this is often easier said than done.