The Panthers continue to build depth on their defense by taking the 2011 Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Iowa State's AJ Klein.
Now, I know what you're thinking. WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER LINEBACKER, RAWR!
But, please settle down and take a breather before you get your pitchforks out. If you look at this from a different perspective, the pick really makes sense.
Before the pick, the Panthers only had one starting linebacker with no injury concerns. Yes, Thomas Davis played a full season last year, but after three consecutive ACL injuries, there's still a slight amount of concern that he could re-injure himself and put the Panthers in a bind with no reliable depth.
We also don't know how well Jon Beason is going to return from his second straight season on IR, so going into 2013 with a huge question mark at linebacker isn't the best way to handle business. We signed Chase Blackburn in free agency, but one guy isn't going to solve all of our problems if we experience another worst case scenario at linebacker.
Enter AJ Klein into the equation. The Panthers had an opportunity to take a 3rd-4th round prospect in the 5th round and they pounced on it (just like any good team should).
In case you're not familiar with Klein, here's part of his draft profile from CBS Sports:
Excellent key and diagnosis skills. Reads the action and gets a jump-start, often beating blockers to the ball. Better than advertised speed to the flanks and in pursuit downfield and is a quick accelerator, able to slip through gaps to make plays at the line ofscrimmage. Scrapes the edge nicely, showing good balance and flexibility to dip under the reach of offensive linemen, turn quickly and close on the ball. Technically sound defender who extends his arms and delivers a blow to separate from would-be blockers before they have a chance to latch on. Reliable open-field tackler. Breaks down well and has the patience to wait for the ball-carrier to commit before making the secure wrap-up tackle. Alert in zone coverage. Reads the quarterback's eyes and shows a good understanding of route-development as well as the burst to close on the ball. Good ball skills. Shows some vision to set up blocks on the return and surprising open field running skills. Passionate defender who was voted a team captain as a junior and senior.
Could be viewed by some as a bit of a 'tweener as he lacks ideal athleticism for the outside and does not take on and shed blocks as well as preferred to remain inside. Usually has to give ground to release from blocks once his opponents get their hands into his chest. Is not a physically intimidating striker, though he is a reliable tackler. Does not possess ideal fluidity for man to man coverage in the NFL.
You know who that sounds like? It sounds a lot like Luke Kuechly. It's probably a good idea to get a guy who's like Kuechly to have as depth just in case he needs to take a breather or two. In the end, this is a smart pick even if it's not a guy who will start on day one.
So, in short - this is a good pick. It might not make the headlines, but it will certainly go a long way in shoring up the defensive depth that has been one of the Panthers' weaknesses in recent years.