Deep down, I believe a good portion of us really want that flashy wide receiver in the first round. It's just hard to get that excited about drafting another defensive tackle. However, this line of thinking goes against traditional football wisdom. The "smart" way is supposedly going the non-dramatic route by drafting offensive and defensive lineman early, and picking the glamour positions like receiver and running back in the latter rounds. Memories of Charles Rogers and Roy Williams burning the Lions are waved about as a cautionary tale whenever taking a WR early is mentioned. Yet this cautionary tale ignores recent guys such as Andre Jonhson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, and AJ Green.
We know the Panthers need to get better on defense, but for some reason (maybe because of how the pro-days have fallen) a lot of the talk lately in the CSR community is about the receivers in this years draft. What if I said we had a chance to get the best of both worlds? Let your mind go for a second and check out this draft in fantasy land where we get a stud wide receiver and strengthen our defense.
1st Round: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame- 6-3, 220, 4.47
Mike meet Cam, Smitty, D. Will, J. Stew and Chud! The last time we drafted a WR in the first round was FIFTEEN years ago in 1997. Let that sink in by thinking about where you were fifteen years ago. I was a ninth grader looking forward to getting my beginner's permit to drive, and now I'm a few months away from turning thirty. Sure you could try to find a WR in later rounds, but how have the Keary Colbert, Drew Carter, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryne Robinson, and Armanti Edwards experiments worked out? Let's be honest, Lafell will likely never be a #1 reciever who could single-handedly take over a game. Gettis had his chance to step-up in training camp last summer, and was reportedly slow in doing so. Despite his measurables, there is a reason no one took him before the 6th round. I'm optomistic that he could be a complimentary piece, but don't forget that Drew Carter was a guy with nice measurables and flashes of hope who never quite panned out.
Michael Floyd will take the double-teams away from Smitty for the next few years, and be able to take over games in the future. If he had great production in college with a not so great QB, just imagine what he could do with Cam. His stock has risen significantly after excellent 40 times at the combine and Notre Dame pro-day, and some pundits believe he could now go in the top ten. As a bonus, he also has instant chemistry with Clausen if needed (j/k).
Note: if Blackmon falls here, he could easily be the pick as well.
2nd Round: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse- 6-5, 266, 4.85
We have two nice defensive ends in Johnson and Hardy. They started out the season strong, but seemed to tire towards the end due to lack of depth at the position. Our pass rush suffered tremendously as a result, making our already beleagured defense even worse. Since we have quality starters but still need more "umph", we can afford to take a swing at a prospect with high potential. Jones is a high-ceiling guy with impressive size who needs some time to refine his technique. He could gain experience subing in for Hard-Johnson when needed, while helping keep them fresh at the same time. Plus, the Panthers have already shown an interest in him. Note: Back-up pick here could be Jerell Worthy.
4th Round: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida- 6-3, 301, 1.72
Let's bring in another guy to compete with and light a fire under "Dancing Bear" McClain. By the end of the season, we did find that Neblett, Shirley, etc., could be steady at the DT positon, especially with the return of Edwards. This allows us to take a shot at another guy with some upside. Howard showed flashes while playing against some quality O-lines in the SEC. He finished the season with 65 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, and two passes batted away.
Note: My back-up pick here would be the versatile DE/OLB Jonathan Massaquoi out of Troy, who would could be our more cost effective version of "Ingram-lite".
5th Round: Terrell Manning, OLB, NC State- 6-2, 237, 4.63
Even with Senn resigning, it would be wise to bring in another prospect to play behind the fragile Thomas Davis. Manning is another guy who has potential, but would be best served in an opportunity to learn and develop without having to start immediately (which we offer). He made several "splash" plays last season with 14.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, five passes broken up, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He is also a "local guy", and the Panthers did send a contingent to the NC State pro-day presumably to observe him.
6th Round: Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado- 6-7, 321
Cam does need time to stay upright for our vertical offense to be successful, and pressure up the middle seems to be what has the greatest effect on him. Couple that with loosing BOTH starting guards in free agency, and obvious holes exist. It would be wise to bring in someone to provide competiton against the other "mid-level" guys we have for that final starting guard spot. Miller is a huge guy with power. In fact, he is so tall that teams with shorter QBs may shy away from him. Cam won't have a problem in that regard.
6th Round: J. K. Schaffer, ILB, Cincinnati- 6-1, 227, 4.69
The Panthers love drafting linebackers, and our MLB depth is left in shambles since Connor left in free agency. It would be nice to pick up another option to back-up and learn behind Beason, who is coming off of a very serious injury. Schaffer is a guy capable of making big plays with12.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and six passes broken up this season. He will likely drop because of his small size, but is thought to be an instinctive player, who could use more grooming and play special teams.
7th Round: Shaun Powell, P, Florida State- 6-4, 265
Hey if we do a better job of pinning the other team back, it does help the defense. This is an obvious hole for the team. Anger may be gone here, but this year's class is deep enough where we should still be able to get a good punter early in the 7th round.
That's it Panther fans, a little something different. I know many of you are tired of all the mocks, but we only have three weeks of it left!