Earlier this week, I reached out to CJ White from Draft Panthers to see if he wanted to discuss his thoughts on the Panthers' 2013 draft class. Fortunately for me, he was more than happy to oblige my request, and we were able to have a great discussion over email about the Panthers' draft.
I asked CJ six questions about the draft, and each one will be separated by a little further analysis by me, but let's go ahead and kick things off with the first question:
1. Who was your favorite pick (aside from Star) in the draft?
In my opinion, Kawann Short was the best pick the Panthers made in the 2013 NFL Draft. I have documented for some time that the Panthers did not have a true starting caliber 1-tech DT or 3-tech DT on the roster. Short is a very good pass rushing DT and holds up admirably against the run.
With this pick, David Gettleman turned the Panthers biggest weakness into an area of strength. There have been great write-ups at CSR, DraftPanthers and the Charlotte Observer explaining the overall impact of fielding two stud DTs like Star and Short.
The interior of Carolina's defensive line has ranked in the bottom 3 of the NFL for the past 3 seasons. This should not be the case moving forward.
I agree with CJ here, as you would know if you read my last article about the Panthers' decision to draft Short in the 2nd round. I think that taking Star and Short will pay huge dividends for Carolina's run defense, and on a bigger scale - for Ron Rivera's coaching future in Charlotte.
2. What was your least favorite pick the Panthers made?
I honestly liked the entire draft class. There isn't one pick I hated. However, I was hoping that in the later rounds David Gettleman would draft a developmental left tackle to become the heir apparent to Jordan Gross.
I think drafting a developmental OT was a good idea as well, as I was pounding the table pretty hard for David Quessenberry. I can't really complain about any of the picks however, as I see the reasoning behind all of them even if they didn't take a player I necessarily "wanted" at the time.
3. If you could change one pick to a different player, which pick would it be, who would you change it to, and why?
This answer follows up Question 2. The developmental LT's I saw as potential late round targets would have been:
-Tanner Hawkinson, Was taken pick #156
-Vinston Painter, Was taken pick #173
-David Quessenberry, Was taken pick #176
I would not change the AJ Klein pick at #148 for any of these players. It also appears that taking any of these OT prospects at pick #108 would have been a drastic reach.
I would not have traded up from the Barner pick at #182 because he fills a soon to be immediate need; RB#2 change of pace back. He will also serve as a dynamic kick returner. He has great hands and incredible vision and will be a weapon for Cam Newton out of the backfield.
When you look at the board and how it shaped up after the Klein pick in the 5th round, there really wasn't a developmental OT to take afterwards. I think I agree with CJ here - I'd rather have Klein than any of those OT's, especially if we end up needing another LB mid-season like we've needed in recent years.
4. Which pick was the best value?
AJ Klein at pick #148 was an incredible value pick from my perspective, and from where pundits graded him. He was one of my top-5 ILB in the 2013 Draft and almost made our Top-100 Big Board at DraftPanthers.
He played all 3 LB positions in the Cyclones defense during his time at Iowa State garnering Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the year honors in 2011 and being named to the Big 12 First Team Defense in both 2011 and 2012. He was also named a co-captain of the Iowa State team last season.
Klein is a fundamentally sound player with surprising athleticism.
He possesses adequate 4-3 SAM linebacker size at 6'1" - 250. He engages offensive lineman well and is a fairly good blitzer. Klein also would pair nicely at inside linebacker with Luke Kuechly should the Panthers mix in any 3-4 fronts.
There is no guarantee Thomas Davis or Jon Beason will both stay healthy for an entire season. There is also a high likelihood this is Beason's last year with the Panthers. The Panthers needed to secure a young LB who could add depth now and challenge to start in 2014.
Klein was a high value pick in terms of draft position and in terms of what he brings to the team. He addresses a short-term need and hopefully becomes a long-term solution. In my estimation, that is high value for pick #148.
I think AJ Klein is going to be a steal for Carolina. He was projected to go in the 3rd/4th round, and we were able to get him in the 5th. It's hard to pass up that kind of value, especially when there have been significant injury concerns in the LB corps over the past several years. Klein will most likely be a ST player for the majority of the year, but he could turn into a player who makes Jon Beason expendable once his cap figure is easier to part with.
5. Which pick was the biggest reach?
This is nitpicky, but OG Edmund Kugbila at pick #108 was a slight reach. He graded out as a mid 5th prospect in my film review. Selecting him wasn't a "bad" reach, it just happened to be the only reach the Panthers made in the 2013 NFL Draft.
My favorite memory from the draft was saying "Who the [bleep] is Edmund Kugbila?!" when the pick was made. In fact, it took me half an hour to write a recap of the pick because I had to dig through the deepest parts of the internet to find information on the kid. Understanding the need for a RG, I can't hate the pick, but I do wonder if the 4th round was a reach or not. Of course, the guy I wanted (Alvin Bailey) wasn't even drafted, so maybe the Panthers' brass knows something that I don't. That would explain why they're working in the NFL and I'm not.
6. What grade would you give the Panthers for their entire draft?
As documented over at DraftPanthers.com, we awarded the Panthers a B+ on their first draft under new GM David Gettleman.
My official grade for the draft is a B+ as well. I just can't find too many issues with the way the Panthers' board played out, even if they took a backup LB and RB in the 5th and 6th rounds. Of course, a week after the fact is way too early to grade a draft, but at first glance the Panthers did an admirable job.
If you want to read CJ's Way Too Early Draft Grade, please head over to Draft Panthers and check it out. He's devised a really neat grading system that accounts for several factors, including: talent vs. value, potential, and roster impact. It's an outstanding read and I definitely recommend it.
I would like to give a huge thanks to CJ for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions from me, and I hope that we can have more collaborations like this in the future. After you're done reading this piece, make sure you go check them out over at Draft Panthers, they're doing some really good work over there. You should probably bookmark them as well, because they're going to be providing more analysis throughout the year.
What do you think of his answers to my questions? Do you agree or disagree with his analysis? Tell us what you think!