Panther Paw Prints: Mid-Combine Edition

We are halfway through the combine and we have some paw prints from around the internet, mostly centered on the combine and potential draft prospects for the Panthers.

In no particular order, we start with some local Carolina products that would be nice fits in a Panther uniform:

UNC’s Cooper a top guard in NFL draft |

"I was just a fat little kid always getting picked on. I was like, I’m gonna play football," Cooper said Thursday at the scouting combine. "So I was a water boy for my brother’s Pop Warner team for a couple of years. I was finally able to play my seventh-grade year in middle school, and I was kind of big and soft but I finally learned the game, got some toughness about me, and I was able to excel."

"During the season I’d gotten down to 285 pounds running spread, no-huddle offense. We just about tripled the number of plays we ran in practice," he said. "It really kind of sped up my metabolism, but now I’m up to 312 and I feel the difference. I feel the power. I’ve got just a little more butt behind me and I’m ready to be more of a physical player."

Cooper might he an option at #14 though he doesn't play the kind of position Dave Gettleman covets that early in the draft. RG is easily our most pressing need but I think we could find a good OG later in this draft.

Another mid-round possibility is this CB who looked like a 1st round selection season ago but after a disappointing senior year has seen his stock slide:

N.C. State’s David Amerson out to prove to NFL teams he’s better than ’12 |

"Definitely the amount of touchdowns I gave up this season was disappointing," said Amerson, adding he had the record in mind. "I was just playing to get interceptions," he said. As a result, Amerson sat on routes, guessed in coverage and watched a lot of end zone celebrations after receivers got behind him. His lowest point was a 44-37 loss to Miami when he was beaten for four touchdowns and failed to make a play on a fifth, when Phillip Dorsett ran into his zone and caught the game-winning, 62-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left. "I had a chance to make a play on the ball, and I definitely should have made that play," Amerson said. "I guess you could say you can put it on me."

What I find impressive is Amerson's self -evaluation and admission he made mistakes and got too caught up in the NCAA record thing. That's huge in the maturity department in my book so Amerson might be a steal in the 4th round.

Another 1st round possibility apparently had a good combine:

2013 NFL combine -- Tavon Austin, other WRs on fast track - ESPN

The consensus is that Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee and Keenan Allen of California are the sure first-round choices. Patterson didn't hurt his cause by running a 4.42 40. Allen was injured and didn't work out. Nevertheless, most believe they will both go in the first round because they are big receivers who can play the outside. Austin could be the next DeSean Jackson, only faster. He's 5-foot-8, 174 pounds and is explosive and exciting. Eleven more receivers could go in rounds 2-4. What was evident Sunday is that most of the receivers have good size and great speed. Teams heading into this draft now don't have to worry and panic about getting a quality athlete at receiver too early. Sunday's track meet showed this draft has depth at the position even though many of the receivers looked raw in running precise routes.

Here's a double dip on Patterson:

EJ Manuel, Tavon Austin rise; Geno Smith maintains status quo -

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: Patterson did nothing to disappoint during his time on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. He ran a 4.42 40, despite having a slight stumble at the 10-yard mark. (He found another gear over the final 20 yards of the test.) During the field workout, Patterson didn't "wow," but he showed impressive burst, the ability to quickly get in/out of his break and reliable hands. This draft doesn't contain a surefire stud at wide receiver in the mold of A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but Patterson has the potential to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber pass catcher.

Some of the combine participants have off-the-field issues to iron out in Indy with this slot corner being one of them:

NFL Scouting Combine: What we learned Day 4 -

Don't call him "Honey Badger" anymore. Tyrann Mathieu is looking to shed his past. In a fascinating session with reporters, Mathieu talked about rehab, being humiliated and enjoying too many things other than football. "My best friend right now is honesty," Mathieu said.

Oh come on, we can't drop such a great nickname like 'Honey Badger'? I mean, I didn't realize the name was somehow tied to his off-the-field issues. Did he only become the 'Honey Badger' after getting hammered drunk or stoned? Again, just like Amerson though Mathieu seems to be saying the right things.

If one of the top tackles is on the board it will present another tough choice for the Panthers. This guy might just slide to us and given the speed and athleticism he could be a proto-typical LT:

2013 NFL Combine Saturday winners and losers -

Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma Johnson may not overtake Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher as the first tackle taken, but he's now strongly considered a top 10 lock. The former tight end looked like one during offensive line drills. Johnson sped 40 yards in 4.72 seconds, the second fastest time ever for an offensive lineman. That wasn't Johnson's most impressive athletic feat, either. In the ever-important three-cone drill, Johnson tied with center Brian Schwenke for the fastest time with a 7.31.

Though the QB class might be weak at the top I bet there is a run on them in the 2nd round. Yet the question is who will pass on Geno Smith?

Mike Mayock's four weekend combine observations -

"I want to bang the table because I want to like Geno Smith," Mayock said. "But there's just too many inconsistencies on tape for me to say that Kansas City or anyone that high should take him."

Someone will grab him the top 10 though but in a dream Panther scenario we trade back at #14 for a team to grab Smith or even one of the other QBs.

Wrapping it up is a piece on the NFL's possible desire to push back the start of the league year:

2013 NFL combine -- Friday observations about offseason, Weeden and more - ESPN

While it makes sense for NFL general managers and coaches to have enough time to rest and recoup their energy after a season, the NFL is dealing with a union. Say what you want about the NFLPA, but there is no way it is going to allow the start of free agency to go later. Union members weren't particularly happy having the start of free agency pushed back to March 12, but that was an agreement in the 2011 CBA. No union is going to willingly shorten the period of time potential employees have to find a job. Holding potential free agents back a month from getting jobs, cashing roster bonus checks and finding out if trades are official would have to come with a price. Unless the NFL is willing to trade off something significant for a delayed start to free agency, nothing will happen and the NFL wouldn't be willing to give up much. Why would it? NFL owners were able to increase the league's revenue share along with getting a hard rookie pool in the 2011 agreement.

I would much prefer the schedule to stay as is. I like having the combine this early as it shortens the dead time and gets us full into the Pro Day circuit. As the piece points out though I see no reason the NFLPA would go along with it....without something big in return of course.

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