Panther UDFA S Lester Has a Good Chance to Make the Roster

USA TODAY Sports

We thought for sure the Panthers would use a draft pick for their young secondary but instead they waited until after the draft to address it. Hence S Robert Lester has a good chance to make the Panthers roster in September.

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Lester is known for a good work ethic and he seems to have the right attitude about going undrafted:

He's just happy to have the chance. He's officially my favorite UDFA at the moment, at least until TC that is!

Here's a couple draft profiles I found on Lester, starting with a very glowing one that came out prior to his Senior season:

2013 NFL Draft Prospect Notes - Robert Lester, S, Alabama - SBNation.com
From 2012: Strengths: Very smart, hardworking player - Like most Alabama players, Lester is intelligent and hardworking. You can see this by his good physical shape and the fact that he is usually in the right place on the football field Great center field ability - In his two years as a starter for Alabama, Lester has shown the ability to play center field. He has 10 interceptions in the 2 years and most of them came when lined up in deep zone and just reading the play Always around the ball, creates a lot of turnovers - This ties in with the point above. Lester is in the right place at the right time and has the ability to make big plays after the INT.

Great coaching - This is a given with any player from Alabama Solid in coverage on slot WRs - Lester has shown the ability to cover slot WRs in his two years at Bama. He does not get beat very often and has good technique

Scheme versatility - He can play zone or man (ties in with the above point). Nick Saban uses him in a variety of ways similar to Troy Polamalu. At times you see him in the box. Other times you see him dropping into a deep zone and other times he is lined up on a slot WR. Good athlete - Lester is athletic and has good speed. He is not going to blow you away with speed but he has above average speed for a safety.

Yet apparently Lester did not live up to his high billing and subsequently took a hit in his draft status:

Robert Lester Draft Profile – NFL.com
STRENGTHS NFL-caliber size and length. Possesses strong hands, height and vertical to high-point passes in jump-ball situations. Can also drop to the ground quickly to get his hands underneath low throws. Sticks his nose into the run game, drops his hips to stop the momentum of churning running backs up the middle. Finds creases to explode through as a blitzer. Uses his long, strong arms to trip up and wrap up ballcarriers coming into his area or wrestle them down from behind. Good hustle in coverage, will track down receivers over the middle.

WEAKNESSES Not a quick-twitch athlete. High and stiff in his backpedal. Does not have elite hip flexibility to break down quickly as a tackler or turn and run with receivers downfield. Takes time to get to the sideline at times in cover-two and will take incorrect angles to the ball as a tackler and in coverage. Won’t catch faster receivers in trail coverage over the middle. Often doesn't take the proper angle to the ball in the run and pass game. Inconsistent.

NFL COMPARISON James Butler

BOTTOM LINE Lester posses length, toughness, and ball skills. Lester has made some impact plays over his career at Alabama, but he also been troubled by maddening inconsistencies. His draft stock has dipped a bit throughout the season, but he will still be selected in the middle rounds.

Here's another that seems to echo the weaknesses:

Robert Lester, SS, Alabama, NFL Draft - CBSSports.com - NFLDraftScout.com
STRENGTHS: Possesses a long, lean build well-suited to today's pass-happy NFL. Reads the quarterback's eyes and is a smooth accelerator, showing a burst to close on underneath routes. Times his leaps well in jump-ball situations and extends his arms to make a play at its highest point. Excellent ball skills, including the ability to track the ball over his shoulder, extend to catch away from his frame and the ability to sneak his hands under the ball to corral pass deflections. Athletic enough to occasionally drop down to cover slot receivers. Has the long arms to re-route receivers and is balanced enough to cover short distances. Reads run quickly and flashes aggression to support. Long, strong arms for the pull-down tackle and occasionally will lower his shoulder for the big hit. Highly respected by coaching staff for his work ethic.

WEAKNESSES: A bit of a 'tweener. May lack the athleticism for deep coverage and the physicality necessary to play well closer to the line of scrimmage. Does not possess ideal hip fluidity and foot quickness to operate as a true center fielder against an NFL passing attack. Loses a step as he changes directions and does not have great speed to recover. Does too much grabbing and dragging as an open-field tackler, and when he does attempt to lower the boom has a tendency to duck his head and lunge. Takes questionable angles to the ball, underestimating the speed of ball-carriers and not proving to be a reliable last line of defense.

COMPARES TO: Kerry Rhodes, FS, Arizona Cardinals: Like the 6-3, 212-pound Rhodes, Lester has the size, closing speed and ball skills to develop into a dependable ball-hawk at the next level.

So Lester did not test well in the agility drills it would seem but he might be more of the kind of guy that plays better on the field than he tests. Also the fact he had a big sophomore year he reminds me of NC States' David Amerson who also had a lot of INTs early in college only to see his production fall off as a senior. Both players suffered from going for the INT and thereby missed tackles and took bad angles on balls.

Lester seems to have the build of the 'box safety' but will need to improve his tackling and man skills to get any snaps in the defense. He should be a solid ST contributor as the Panthers figure out where he best fits. At a lithe 220 lbs Lester just might eventually transition to WLB with just a little more bulk on his frame.

CSR gives a big welcome to Robert Lester! Get Pounding!

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