Conventional wisdom since the end of the season has been to peg the Panthers with a defensive tackle at the top of the draft. Desperately needing a force up the middle, Carolina fans get a different name to ponder with the 14th pick in the latest mock from Matthew Fairburn of Mocking the Draft.
14. Carolina Panthers Star Lotulelei Utah DT
Star Lotulelei is our top-rated prospect, but the news of his heart condition is alarming. Thankfully this was caught before anything serious happened to Star, but until we learn more, it's tough to put him in the top 10. The Panthers are a team that could take a chance on him, though, given their desperate need at defensive tackle.
This is a tragedy, and that's the only appropriate way I can view this scenario. Lotulelei is my favorite DT in the draft by a long shot, and back when the Panthers were still holding a top-three pick, he was the player I wanted the team to get. Some are understandably excited at the prospect of getting one of the draft's elite talents, but gleefully looking on while a 23-year-old kid waits to hear from a specialists whether his heart is abnormal -- that feels ghoulish.
The mock had some other interesting picks too. DeAndre Hopkins is the first WR off the board, Bjoern Werner lasts until the 18th pick, and Kenny Vaccaro is still available for the Bengals at 21. One of my personal favorites, Jessee Williams, is heading to Pittsburgh at #17 -- the idea of him in the middle of the 3-4 is frightening.