It happens every year. A player is deemed a surefire top-10 to top-15 draft pick by NFL Draft pundits, only to end up sitting in the Green Room for a bevy of uncomfortable television close-ups.
Last year, while I was drawing up plays to take advantage of Auburn QB Cam Newton's running prowess, many were convinced Clemson DE Da'quan Bowers was "the safe pick" for the Panthers at No. 1 Overall - until an eleventh hour revelation he has the knees of a 60-year-old sent him tumbling out of the first round.
Oftentimes, the hype surrounding a prospect just doesn't line up with reality, and there's a reason why teams shy away from players who guys in television studios are dying for them to pick. These television personalities may even advocate the pick so they can rip on the poor sucker to take their advice.
Yes, I speak of the Panthers' pick of QB Jimmy Clausen in a very convoluted manner.
As I see it, the Panthers have multiple holes on the roster they could justify filling with the #40 pick. These include: three-technique defensive lineman, number two corner, number two wide receiver, future left tackle, rush defensive end, linebacker suitor and an interior offensive line mauler.
In my opinion, the Panthers saw how thin the draft is at safety and went the free agent route, in favor of getting a young corner to come into the #2 mix with CB's Brandon Hogan and Captain Munnerlyn through the Draft. Cornerback is the strength of this Draft.
For kicks, you could throw in a really good tight end if one presents itself. I will for the purpose of this exercise.
At the No. 9 pick, I feel it is a little tougher to justify making the pick, and would probably cut the list off at linebacker suitor. However, by having two picks out of the first 40 of the Draft, the Panthers have an opportunity the team and its fanbase have grown unaccustomed to over the past several years - to immediately fill two of these holes, if executed correctly.
At No. 9, Carolina will more or less get their pick of the litter in the front seven, and I believe there will be several projected first round picks that would be sitting there grinning if Coach Rivera rang their cell phone before the Commish steps to the podium for pick 40.
After the jump, we'll take a cursory glance at some likely candidates to fall into the Panthers' waiting arms at each of the positions of need.
You could really say "slash Memphis DT Dontari Poe," but something tells me one of those guys is going to clear. In fact, one or both of them may get jumped by PSU's Devon Still, MSU's Jerel Worthy and/or UCONN's Kendall Reyes based on the fact that neither of them have produced anywhere near the level of any of these three on the field.
For this simple N.C. country boy, however, this begs the question: Will any of the guys who have actually done something still be waiting to hear their name called?
That said, a little bit of a project can be worked with at No. 40 if you're as starved for upside as the Panthers, and either of those DT's make sense in the grand scheme at No. 40.
N. Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins
Maybe the dreaded "character concerns" snake up and bites the natural rival to LSU CB Mo Claiborne for the top corner in the draft. He had a tumultuous college career that included getting run out of Florida after performing like an All-SEC shutdown corner.
If Carolina were to stumble upon Jenkins at 40, to go along with UNC DE Quinton Coples, they would have an immediately scary defense in 2012.
If you had to slash this up like, "One of these guys is almost sure to get through," how about Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick? He might be the poor bastard that ole blacksnake up and bites.
By picking Jenkins, the Panthers organization may also be able to get some type of FEMA allotment as an International Victims of Urban Meyer Refugee Center. Don't know how that would work out with the salary cap and all (would probably go into the owners' 51 percent of the pie), but oh! The stories SuperCam and JJ Dyno-mite have to tell...
South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey
This is my guy at 40. I feel like the team need and his potential to slide to this spot, him being from Carolina, QB Cam Newton needing a young receiver; everything lines up PERFECTLY to bring this guy to Charlotte and give the team their possession option across from Smitty.
Speaking of cool, how about "Mr. Clutch" WR Brandon Lafell working the middle of the field, and WR David Gettis not having the pressure to step back on the field and be better than he ever was before. Throw in WR Kealoha Pilares and you got yourself depth at wide receiver to go along with your franchise quarterback. I've forgotten what that's like, if I ever knew.
An alternative to Jeffrey here would have to be Baylor WR Kendall Wright, who the Panthers brought in for a visit. Perhaps when New England makes their second pick they're choosing between these two, though the signing of Brandon Lloyd makes this less likely. St. Louis, however, could go the Claiborne route in Round 1 and be looking a playmaker a few picks ahead of us in the second. Browns ditto.
Ohio State OT Mike Adams
Honestly, DE may belong above OT (or CB and WR, for that matter) on this list, in case Jacksonville scoops up Coples and makes our Front Office VERY bummed in the first. However, I think this guy is the second best left tackle prospect in the Draft (long arms, athletic, polished at times), but I see a high potential for him to fall here because he's apparently a HUGE douchebag in person. Makes sense seeing as how he went to Ohio State. (Zinger!)
Personal presentation aside, "Wow!" This would be an excellent acquisition in the second round. I can't imagine him getting there, but this article is after all about the unpredictable improbably coming to fruition, so just roll with it like I am.
I can't really see Iowa OT Riley Reiff falling to us here, but if I'm looking OT late in the first and both are there; that's the choice I'm making.
Clemson DE Andre Branch
This is another place that begs for a slash, and I'm thinking USC DE Nick Perry or Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus, depending on how much you regard either of those prospects.
Here's the scenario: Coples is gone at 9, and the team seriously needs a pass rush upgrade to capitalize on its newfound advantage of Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox shooting gaps and occupying inside blockers. This is the best guy available to get after the quarterback, and we only came here to drink beer and punch Drew Brees in the mouth... Almost out of beer.
That said, UVA DE Cam Johnson or Syracuse DE Chandler Jones may be my guy if I'm picking there.
Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower
Okay, this one's a little bit of a stretch, but I don't see Boston College LB Luke Kuechly getting out of the top-20 and this is really the only other pure linebacker with a consensus first round grade. That would have to make him eye-catching if he's sitting there.
In my opinion, there are better fits for this team out there, and some of them will even be there in the fourth and fifth rounds. However, can they shy away from a beast like this? In my mind, he's like former Alabama DT Marcell Dareus except he plays standing up.
Can that really be a bad thing?
Georgia OG Cordy Glenn
Travelle Wharton replacement, anyone? This is a guy who reminds me A LOT of the guy who got too expensive for the Panthers this year. He's a guy who can step outside and play tackle, but is better suited to go inside and hold the line.
I imagine him as "a pulling guard" like we used to have but got away... Man, I can't remember his name, circa seven or eight years ago. Had a role in the Super Bowl run. Comment box anyone?
If he's there at 40, pull the trigger. It can't hurt to have guys like him around the offensive line.
An alternative may be the guy the Panthers brought in for a visit, Midwestern State OG Amini Silatolu (who could be a fourth rounder, I don't know), or even Oklahoma State OG Kelechi Osemele or Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler. Both are well-coached.
Or they may be content to collect guys other teams drafted here four years ago, as they seem to be doing currently.
Stanford TE Coby Fleener
This is the one that's just for kicks, and it's hard for me to see this pick happening. At the same time, I could kind of dig it.
Thor is awesome holding it down, but Fleener is definitely what we think we might have with TE Gary Barnidge and you're always one play away in the NFL.
If I'm thinking TE, I'm thinking later and more athletic, but this guy could be the next Gronkowski brother and I wouldn't know it. Who doesn't want a Gronk?
[Insert Your Own Prospect/Perspective Here]
So, who are you just DYING to see fall to the Panthers at 40?