Football games are both won and lost in the trenches. In this draft, the Panthers not only address both offensive and defensive lines, but they also sneak away with a solid free safety, a blocking tight end for Cam Newton, and a talented fullback.
1.14: Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama: One of the strongest players in college football, the 6-4, 335 pound Aussie is just what the Panthers need in the middle of their defensive line. Williams played as a 3-4 defensive end last year in Nick Saban’s defense, but this year he was moved inside to nose tackle to anchor the line. Williams’ film might not have too many ‘splash’ plays, but he is a very fundamentally solid football player. He makes playing defensive tackle look easy. Williams has the talent and technique to instantly start at nose tackle in the Panthers 4-3 defense, and has the flexibility to play 3-4 nose tackle or 3-4 defensive end when the Panthers show 3-4 looks.
2.13: Oday Aboushi, LT, Virginia: Aboushi is a sleeper prospect in the second round who could sneak into the first round, as he played very well at left tackle for Virginia this season. He displays the athleticism and has mastered the technique and footwork you want to see from a left tackle. Aboushi could instantly start at left tackle, but will probably play at right tackle for a year or two on the right side on the Panthers offensive line, before making the switch.
4.11: Brandon Bishop, FS, NC State: Bishop is a solid free safety out of North Carolina State. He can play the ball in the air, cover tight ends and slot receivers, and help in run support, as he is a very solid tackler. He has a good mix of size, speed and instincts. Bishop also made the 2012 All-ACC Team. He’s also a local guy, so the Panthers will probably take a close look at him. I think they’ll like what they see. Overall, Bishop is a solid player who would be a BPA pick for the Panthers in the fourth round. Bishop would be great competition for D.J Campbell at the free safety spot.
5.15: Spencer Long, RG, Nebraska: Long is an athletic offensive lineman who had a brilliant career at Nebraska. He started all of his games at right guard the last two seasons, and that’s probably going to be his NFL position as well. Long is a traditional mauling guard, who is great at opening holes on the offensive line. He is also a respectable pass blocker. Long has the potential to become an instant starter at right guard on the Panthers offensive line.
6.14: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama: Williams was the best blocking tight end in the nation this year. Williams is massive at 6-6 and 270 pounds, and he is surprisingly athletic at that size. The Panthers could really use a good blocking tight end, and Williams is one of the best in the 2013 Draft.
Round 7 (predicted compensatory pick): Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford: Hewitt is a hard-nosed, physical downhill blocker who did an excellent job opening holes for RB Stephan Taylor. He also has soft hands and good speed for a 6-4, 250 pound fullback. Hewitt would be a great lead blocker for Jonathan Stewart.
So, what do you think, Panthers fans? What are your thoughts about this draft? Feel free to criticize or compliment my picks! I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the prospects I mentioned in this mock draft.