The NFL Scouting Combine has just ended, and there is now a lot of enthusiasm and interest leading up to the draft. Everyone wants to know: What will happen in late April? And, Who will the Carolina Panthers select with the 14th pick and beyond?
Well, here is my shot in the dark at how the draft might unfold. I’m certain that many people will think some things are outlandish, and others improbable. However, if you know me, and my modus operandi, it is not to follow the consensus logic. For instance, while most all of the experts have held Geno Smith as KC’s guy for the longest time, I have contended that Joeckel will be the guy. So, I prefer to draw my own line in the sand, and take a different approach.
It is my hope that this approach is refreshingly different and explores other options. Too often, people get stuck thinking in the same ways and . For instance, most think that Carolina is either looking at a DT, WR, OG, or perhaps even a S with the 14th pick. Most have narrowed Carolina’s options down to Sheldon Richardson, Keenan Allen, Chance Warmack, and Kenny Vaccaro. I, myself am a victim of thinking ‘within the box.’ Last year, I was not even willing to consider Kuechly as a realistic option for Carolina due to the Panthers LB depth. However, Kuechly was the choice, and it was a smart choice. In conclusion, I hope to show that there are more options beyond Richardson, Allen, Warmack, and Vaccaro.
This mock is about thinking outside the box. Now, enough talk. Let’s get to it!.
14. CAR – Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Not the pick most were expecting. But a great pick nonetheless.
Ultimately I gave Trufant to Carolina because Carolina has a special set of circumstances that they desire for their first round picks, and Trufant perfectly fits those circumstances. Firstly, and most importantly, they want a leader in the locker room. This is the number one thing the Panthers eye. And all of Trufant’s coaches rave about his leadership. Secondly, the Panthers must have a high-character guy. The guy that Carolina chooses in the draft must be a ‘Panther player’ that Jerry Richardson would be proud to have represent his team. Trufant’s coaches also rave about his character on and off the field. So, Trufant fits what Carolina wants in a person.
As a player, Trufant is also what Carolina is looking for. Gettleman and Co. are proponents of drafting the best player available. Trufant really is that guy. He does not get the media attention that he warrants, but that’s okay, because neither did Kuechly. Despite not getting much attention, Trufant is perhaps the best cover corner in the draft. He does not have the imposing size of Xavier Rhodes, but he has the best feet, hips, and ball skills, which compensate for his average size. Honestly, I could care less about his blood lines. He simply is a talented CB. Just ask any PAC-12 WR who the best CB they’ve faced, and they’ll tell you that Trufant was a nightmare. In answering this question, Robert Woods named Trufant and Richard Sherman.
Furthermore, Trufant is a good value here. Now, I’m sure many disagree, but he is. He had a great season, and he topped that with a dominant performance in the Senior Bowl, as well as an impressive combine (in which he ran a 4.38 40). He’s streaking up draft boards quickly.
Ultimately, this is a smart decision by Gettleman and Rivera. They add a very talented player to a talentless secondary. With Gamble likely scuttled, the Panthers do not have very much in the way of CBs. So, the Panthers upgrade their CB position, which is a good thing because Carolina has been susceptible to the talents of Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, and Marques Colston.
The Panthers are looking for a leader and high-character individual, which would be the best value and impact their team. Trufant is the guy here.
12. CAR – Jonathan Hankins, DT, Ohio St.
For Carolina, this draft could not have fallen better.
Now, optimally, I think Carolina would like to do what they have done the past few years, and that is take an offensive player after a defensive player, or vice versa. I think that Carolina really likes to balance their top 2 choices between offense and defense. However, Carolina has a huge need at DT. The Panthers desperately needs to keep the opposing OGs off of Pro Bowler Jon Beason and D-ROY Luke Kuechly. So, filling a need with a great value is just too good to pass up.
Hankins is an absolute monster in the middle. He was overhyped at the start of the season, but he is immensely talented. Now, he’s mostly a run defender. His pass rushing is one dimensional and mainly consists of a bull rush. But he has considerable upside in the pass rushing department. Moreover, Hankins is phenomenal in area in which the Panthers are very weak in: short yardage situations.
While there is a ton of talk about motor issues and endurance, Hankins is actually praised for his work ethic and character. He is a ‘Panther-type’ player. And in the second, he’s just too good to pass up.
Pair this with Desmond Trufant, and the Defense just got a whole lot better, and a lot more fearsome.
Round 4 –TJ McDonald, S, USC
Again, I hate to keep giving the Panthers defense, but I think this draft is strongest in the defensive areas. This draft is particularly strong at the safety position, and one of them is going to drop into the fourth and into the Panthers lap. Moreover, I think the Panthers have the most holes on defense. And at this point, TJ McDonald is a player that is just too good to pass up, as the
Once considered the top safety in the class, and a possible 1st rounder, McDonald is a talented S. He has imposing size for a safety. Actually, he was utilized in many ways like a pseudo-LB at USC because he has such great size. There is a lot to like about McDonald: he’s fast, good in zone, adequate covering the slot in man coverage, smart, versatile, physical, aggressive, and a team captain. He sometimes gets caught being overaggressive, but after having the feeble Sherrod Martin, it’s welcome at the safety position.
McDonald would fit well in the Panthers Defense. While Godfrey can play his more natural SS position, McDonald can come in an start at the FS and be an improvement over virtually anyone.
Round 5 – Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois
At this point, this is a depth selection. Thornton is a big, strong, physical lineman who can play multiple positions. The downside with him is consistency. But, he is a lineman, which most experts agree, can start in a season or two. A good depth piece with starter upside.
Round 6 – Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida
Now, I know that most here covet Dustin Hopkins, the other talented kicker in the state of Florida, but there is a debate of who is better between the two. Sturgis has a very strong leg, and can handle kickoff duties. He’s also a very accurate kicker, notching 23-27, and missing 3 of those 4 because of blocks. Moreover, he’s nailed all three beyond 50 yards. The Panthers Special Teams is pretty piss poor right now, and getting Sturgis would really improve that. Sturgis would easily upseat Graham Gano, and would be a great part of the Panthers ST for years to come.
Overall, when you look at this draft, the Panthers have strengthened their defense at the strength of the draft. Adding Trufant, Hankins, and McDonald would do wonders, and really make this Panther Defense fearsome. Trufant would be able to cover any #1 WR in the NFC South. Hankins would gobble up OGs and command double teams, enabling Hardy and Johnson to be even more dominant. And McDonald would add a certain, missing pop to the secondary. Add these players to a young D, including a studly LB corps, some young corners, and it is now a force to be reckoned with for many years.
Now, I know many want a WR or a OG early, but the reality is that this draft is defensive heavy. And it is wise to go with the talent flow, and nab some great value at positions of need. Secondly, the Panthers have hinted that they’ll get a WR in FA. Thirdly, although RG is somewhat of a need, the Panthers can do with what they have in Piggy for now. Thornton could also be a replacement down the line.
As for the ST, I think it would be much improved after this draft. Not only does Sturgis add to the ST, but McDonald and Hankins would be good additions as well. McDonald would likely see a lot of action in ST coverage. And Hankins would see a lot of action in the kicking game.