USA TODAY Sports
When I read the title of the the post I've linked up for this piece I expected the list to be dominated by offensive players given the 'versatility' label being applied. Instead it's four defenders and only one offensive player. Three of the list prospects will most likely be available at #14 for the Panthers or even later in the 1st round in a trade back scenario.
There's the three versatile players I would hope to see drafted by the players somehow, some way. Imagine if we could somehow get all three? Keeping it in the realm of reality though, we might be able to get 2.
West Virginia: Running back, wide receiver, punt/kick returner Austin is the most electric football player in this draft class and his versatility is a huge plus. He lined up at both wide receiver and running back for the Mountaineers, returning punts and kicks, as well. Austin finished his WVU career with an impressive 7,287 total yards. He should be able to contribute on all four downs during his rookie season.
I doubt anyone could argue our return game still has room for improvement. He's tough as hell and can be used so many ways, there is little argument he would be another weapon in the Panthers arsenal.
I was very surprised to see a DT here but the explanation of his 'versatility', though previously known, has merit as having NFL value:
Alabama: Defensive tackle, short-yardage fullback Williams has a very unique background. He grew up in Australia, where he excelled as a rugby player. After arriving at Alabama, he became a stout run defender along the Crimson Tide's defensive line. He also contributed on the other side of the ball as a bruising short-yardage fullback. His drafting team would be wise to keep using him in both capacities.
We've discussed many times how Mike Tolbert, though listed and used like a FB, isn't best suited at FB in short yardage situations. Enter Jesse Williams. Forget ever needing Cam Newton to leap the pile again. Do you know what a rugby scrum is? Well Williams is one of the guys in the scrum (a 2nd row guy I assume) who know show to get low and drive the pile. In fact, he excels at it.
DE Margus Hunt
SMU: Defensive lineman, kick blocker Hunt is another player with an international background, having grown up in Estonia. He created quite a buzz with his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, and there is some talk that he could be a surprise first-round pick. He is raw on tape, but boasts the rare size and quickness to play the five-technique in a 3-4 defense. He also has a unique skill set on special teams, as a prolific blocker of kicks. He blocked an incredible 17 kicks during his career at SMU. Think about all of the NFL games that are decided by a field goal or less. Hunt's ability to block field goals could be the difference in multiple games over a 16-game season.
The thought of getting a 'prolific' kick blocker in addition to another guy who can wreak havoc on 3rd down is very enticing. We haven't had a player like that since Kris Jenkins so we know how important the ability to block kicks can be on any given Sunday.
So how could the Panthers end up with all three? It would take a Midas Touch for sure but it would have to involve a trade back into the late 1st round that also garnered a 2nd round pick, Outside of that we might get Williams or Austin at #14 though it seems early for both. Williams ability as a FB though just might be the difference for the Panthers to pull the trigger. Williams fits the mold of the spacer eater the Panthers needs up front on defense.
Then maybe, just maybe Hunt might be available at #44. A lot of people have him mocked in the late 1st round now but that could be media hype. He is raw and has some bust potential but think would be worth the risk in the 2nd.
I can't see the Panthers taking Austin at #14 though he may well prove to be worth that slot. It's just a slot receiver type player is very low in the need category for the Panthers. Our search for the next Steve Smith continues in earnest after all. Silly me though right for thinking 'need' will play into the Panthers draft. I can dream though right?