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The "This Is Why I'm Not A GM" Mock Draft

After much deliberation, I've finally decided to do it. It might be crazy but this is my mock, and we're going to do things my way. I've considered taking S Kenny Vaccaro with the 14th overall pick... I've considered WR Cordarrelle Patterson with the same pick as well... And hedging my bets on a falling DT Star Lotututeletulelu-Lotulelei could've been the answer, or following the crowd with the "other" DT's Sheldon Richardson or Sharrif Flloyd. But... I can't do that.

See, here's why: There are a lot of talented safeties in this class, so that pretty much kills Kenny at #14. A wide receiver would be an excellent luxury to walk away with at #14 but what about the positions that we actually need? It seems too high of a cost to leave larger holes elsewhere. As far as the defensive tackles go? First, I don't really see Lotulelei falling all the way to us and with the remaining guys, how much good are they really going to do us? We had a productive defensive line last year even with decent play from our tackles. Is plugging a rookie in really going to make so much of a difference that it's worth our first round pick? I've decided that, at least for my mock, if he's not going to dominate, he's not worth taking in the first half of the first round.

So, who does that leave? Who do I have my eye on with our first pick? Which player am I expecting to live up to the term "dominant"? Without further ado, I present the first round...

Round 1: Trade Alert

That's right. There's no one I'd have with the 14th pick when trading back offers the potential to grab another 2nd round pick as well as regain our third. So with that, we'll be moving towards the tail end of the draft and we'll be picking up a 2nd and a 3rd round pick. In a perfect world, our trade partners are the Atlanta Falcons, in which they then select a huge bust with our 14th pick... but hey, that's just me dreaming. To determine this trade, I consulted Walter Football's draft chart.

Now, I've got some room to play with. I don't like being smothered.

Round 1 (Trade): DT - Kawann Short

What do I say?
With our first actual pick, I'm hoping DT Kawann Short is still on the board. He has been my favorite DT since day 1. He'd be an excellent compliment to Johnson & Hardy. I bet he'd even register a couple sacks. That would leave just one open spot on the line for one of our current DT's to step up and fill or a free agent to come in and take.

What does the scout say?

"Short is a large human being with a huge wingspan, using his long arms to bat down passes (11 pass break-ups) and make plays on special teams (4 blocked kicks).

Short can be an immovable object in the middle of the field when he plays disciplined and generates power from his lower body. However, he too often gives streaky effort and doesn't consistently play with leverage.

Short sees a lot of double-teams, but scouts want to see more of a mean streak and less passiveness. He has been productive over his first three seasons in West Lafayette, but there is also some negative game tape out there on him. And while Short will still be an attractive pro prospect because of his natural size and tools, he needs to prove he can be consistently more than just a plugging space-eater to cement his top-50 status.

Compares To: Domata Peko, DT, Cincinnati Bengals - Like Peko, Short has a stout, wide frame to consistently stuff the run, but also show the foot quickness to penetrate and makes plays away from the line of scrimmage. Although there are questions about Short's consistency, he has potential to be a consistent starter like Peko.

--Rob Rang"

Round 2: S - Eric Reid

What do I say?
Eric Reid is a lot like Vaccaro. Both are similarly sized heavy hitters with a tendency to get burned deep. I know, that should be a red flag, shouldn't it? I think it's correctable. I see an extremely talented safety in Reid that Rivera & Co will have whipped into top form within a season or two, but one capable of starting right away.

What does the scout say?

"Strengths: Possesses the prototypical frame for the position, boasting wide shoulders, long arms and a tapered frame. Reid is a fantastic downhill athlete with quick read-and-react ability to attack the play with steam spurting from his ears. He might be the explosive hitter from the safety position in the 2013 draft, closing with the speed and physicality of a linebacker rather than a defensive back.

Possesses the size and athleticism combination teams are desperate to find to counter the hybrid receiver/tight ends taking over the seams. Doesn't possess top flexibility but accelerates surprisingly well for his length and has good straight-line speed, overall. Physical with receivers downfield and plays 50-50 balls well, using his size and strength to his advantage.

Weaknesses: Reid's biggest strength is also his greatest weakness. He plays with nonstop aggressiveness and intensity, but he doesn't always control that hostility in a smart way on the football field. He throws his body around and might be the most violent striker in the SEC, but if Reid doesn't learn how to play smarter and harness his fierce playing style then he'll have a tough time making a living in the NFL.

He is a bit stiff in coverage and can be beaten by quicker slot receivers. Has been protected by some awfully talented cornerbacks throughout his career and wasn't the playmaker in 2012 he had been the past two seasons with Claiborne and Mathieu no longer on the roster.

Compares To: LaRon Landry, FS, New York Jets -- Reid signed with LSU patterning his game after the former Tigers' standout and it shows in his physique and bone-jarring hits. Of concern to scouts is the fact that Reid, like Landry, is a bit stiff and not as fast on the field in deep coverage as he may test during workouts.

--Rob Rang"

Round 2 (Trade): WR - Da'Rick Rodgers

What do I say?
I can't lie. Passing on Cordarrelle Patterson wasn't easy and I really wanted Quinton Patton after Patterson but I just don't believe Patton is going to be available late in the 2nd round. At least, not the way things are shaping up right now. If he drops I'd grab him up in a minute but realistically, I'm looking at Da'Rick Rodgers here. Rodgers would be an excellent addition to our receiving corps and could really excel opposite Steve Smith or between Smith and LaFell, or with Smith between Rodgers and LaFell... Get it? He brings the versatility to our receivers that Smitty has been asking for far too long now and has the potential to develop into not only a #1 receiver but an elite receiver.

Rodgers is good for Carolina and Carolina is good for Rodgers. A solid locker room with multiple veterans to look up and learn from, how many times have we heard the Carolina locker room referred to as a "family"? Sounds like just the place someone like Rodgers needs. Luckily for us, that comes later and grabbing Rodgers at the bottom of the second comes now.

What does the scout say?

"Strengths: Despite playing in the ultra-physical SEC, Rogers proved too strong for most teams to consider pressing. He's also versatile, showing the ability to line up outside, as well as in the slot. While it is easy to get excited about Rogers' size-speed potential, one of his greatest attributes is simply his toughness, as he absorbed several big collisions on games viewed and never dropped a pass due to a hit while at Tennessee. Rogers is a powerful runner who fights for additional yardage and has the agility and speed to run away from the pack for explosive plays.

Weaknesses: Generally a reliable pass catcher, but will occasionally look to juke the defender before securing the pass, resulting in an occasional bad drop. Until he cleans up the conception that he's a troublemaker, it may not matter how talented Rogers is, NFL teams will be too concerned to give him the first-round grade his talent deserves.

--Rob Rang"

Round 3 (Trade): CB - Will Davis

What do I say?
The last pick gained from our trade back. I contemplated this pick for some time. David Amerson has the size but lacks speed and is oft-beaten. Leon McFadden seems like the pick here but lacks ideal size in a division with foes that are both large and fast, like Julio Jones. B.W. Webb could easily be our very own B.W. Smith in disguise, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson has a cool name. Ultimately, I felt like Will Davis provided the best fit with some coaching up. Also, Panther fans of old, don't shoot.

What does the scout say?

"STRENGTHS: Possesses a long, lean build ideally suited to the position. Loose-hipped athlete with good balance and overall fluidity to change directions. Good burst to close on the ball due to his vision and quick feet. Possesses at least moderate straight-line speed and tracks the ball well.

Shows good leaping ability, timing and body control to compete for jump-balls. Uses his hands well to limit the receiver's ability to make a play, weaving them into his opponents' frame to break up passes at the last moment.

Accomplished press corner with the arm-length, fluidity and aggression to perform well in this role in the NFL. Aggressive with his hands throughout the route, and shows surprising savvy to hold and not get penalized (considering his relative inexperience).

Possesses some natural return ability and has scored three touchdowns off of interception returns over the past three seasons.

Reliable downfield tackler. Recognizes his containment responsibilities versus the run and works to funnel the action back inside toward his teammates.

WEAKNESSES: A bit of a finesse defender, at this time. Possesses only average physicality, overall, as a tackler. Struggles to break free from physical blocks and does a lot of standing around the pile when he can get away with it.

Has a tendency to duck his head, latch on and get dragged for a tackle rather than truly driving through his opponent for the emphatic stop. Highly aggressive and will bite on double-moves, showing less than ideal makeup speed to recover when beaten initially.

Legitimate level of competition questions, as he has only one season as the full-time starter at Utah State and has just 18 career starts at the FBS level.

COMPARES TO: Richard Marshall, Dolphins -- Like the former Carolina Panthers second round pick (2006), Davis has intriguing natural athleticism for coverage and ball skills and may only need greater physicality to emerge as a starter in the NFL.

--Rob Rang"

Round 4: OT - Xavier Nixon

What do I say?
We're getting towards the end of the draft now, where there are some hits and a lot of misses, with much of the mundane connecting them. I haven't addressed the line up to this point because I have two prospects in mind. I believe Nixon has a lot of potential that our coaching staff can harness and letting him learn the nuances of the game behind some of the best could be just what he needs to develop into a starter.

What does the scout say?

"Strengths: Natural in space with very good flexibility and bend. Stays balanced in pass protection with rare athleticism and fluidity for the position. Effortless kickslide with the feet to easily mirror defenders. Extends his hands to jolt rushers while staying coordinated through contact.

Improved awareness to pick up blitzers and defensive disguises. Doing a much improved job of not overextending and staying squared to his target. Has worked on improving his anchor and keeping his butt low to the ground to boost his base strength. Smooth mover and fluid puller with clean hip movements, blocking well on the move. Has a lot of starting experience in the SEC at a premium position.

Weaknesses: Plays too light and lacks the natural base strength, allowing himself to be bullied backwards. Needs to do a better job pre-snap of recognizing what the defense is planning to do. Too many mental errors over his career and will have moments that leave the coaches scratching their heads. Needs to remain patient in his stand and gets himself in trouble when he lunges.

Plays too passive at times and needs to continue and fight through the whistle. Missed some time in 2012 with a knee and "upper body" injury. Too many penalties on his resume, mostly false starts.

Compares To: Demetress Bell, OT, Philadelphia Eagles - Although they both need some technique work, Nixon and Bell both have the athleticism and mobility to protect the edge at the next level. Consistency can be an issue, but hard to argue with the raw skills.

Dane Brugler"

Round 5: OG - Hugh Thornton

What do I say?
Addressing the line again, we're moving inside with Thornton; another player that just needs some time and a little coaching. Between Thornton and Nixon, I like to think we gain solid depth and the possibility of two future starters. If injury plagues us again, they'd be there to step in. If not, they get the luxury of development. They may not be flashy picks but I believe they're solid long term investments.

What does the scout say?

"POSITIVES: Thick, powerful frame with good arm length. A natural bender who establishes a solid base routinely in pass protection and utilizes lower-body leverage extremely well against longer, taller defenders. Exhibits powerful, heavy hands on contact, and does a good job of keeping his frame clean by extending his arms consistently.

Displays impressive upper-body strength to ragdoll and toss defenders aside at the point of attack. Possesses lateral fluidity and agility to close off the edge, and redirects with some suddenness to thwart the quick counter move. Targets decisively in space and possesses good burst to lead the second-level charge in the run game. Squares up nicely on the run and displays flexibility and suddenness to adjust to defenders coming from various angles in space. Plays with a bit of a nasty streak, and fights to the whistle. Versatile lineman with experience at guard and tackle.

NEGATIVES: Will get anxious and overextend at times off the snap. Leads with his shoulder and will drop his head when engaging defenders in space. Lacks the ideal height and length for a prototypical NFL tackle. Will get too upright in his kick-slide taking him out of position to utilize leverage on contact. Will stop moving his feet when asked to hold position, leaving him susceptible to being thrown aside or pulled to the ground.

COMPARES TO: Sean Locklear, OT, New York Giants - Thornton, like Locklear, may not possess the ideal frame to play tackle at the next level, but his physicality, flexibility and natural athleticism help him to compensate. A probable mid-round selection with starter upside.

--Derek Stephens"

Round 6: K - Dustin Hopkins

What do I say?
Call it jumping on the bandwagon if you must, but both Jaxon and James are right. It's time we stop playing around and invest in a kicker. It seems like the position has been in flux since Kasay left and that is not a good thing if we want to consider a play off run. Panther fans should know the importance of a good, reliable kicker.

Look at all of the kickers you want. When you return, you'll agree that Hopkins is the pick here.

What does the scout say?

"STRENGTHS: Possesses a lean, athletic build. Consistent approach, kick and follow-through which has resulted in reliable accuracy. Even when Hopkins misses, he's been close with kicks typically sailing within a foot or two of the uprights. Gets a high trajectory on his kicks and had zero blocked throughout his career. Has shown the ability to make high pressure kicks, including a 55-yard game-winner to beat Clemson in 2010... Played outside at Florida State and therefore shouldn't have any issues with footing outside at the next level. Consistently reached the endzone on kickoffs and won't have any problem doing so in the NFL. Willing defender with good athleticism and competitive spirit. Recorded 10 tackles (four solo) on kickoff returns over his career.

WEAKNESSES: A bit slim for the position. For all of Hopkins' success, he did miss some potential game-winners, including one from 40-yards out in the closing seconds against North Carolina one week prior to his big game-winning kick to beat Clemson in 2010 and a 42-yarder against Virginia in 2011. Hasn't played in many cold-weather games...

Compares to: Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots"
Well, there it is. Some risks, some hopes, and some... more risks. I believe the safest pick in this mock draft is probably the 6th round kicker, Hopkins. In an ideal world (AKA: my world) I've just selected 7 future pro bowlers, the offensive rookie of the year, and the defensive rookie of the year. Realistically, I would hope to get 3, potentially 4, starters out of this draft (Short, Reid, Rodgers, Hopkins) and 3 good depth players (Davis, Nixon, Thornton) that could fill-in as needed.

Short, Rodgers, and Hopkins would all likely start immediately. Reid would likely start due to a lack of talent in the secondary but, with growing pains, would grow into a full-time starter. Davis could be forced into a starting role depending on how the rest of the secondary shakes out but I'm not sure I'd like to see that immediately. Preferably he, Nixon, and Thornton would have plenty of time to work on their technique before being forced into any game time situations.

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