The idea of a pure "best player available" draft is preposterous, only because there's a nuance needed to match scheme and fit in how you're selecting players. Taking a talented guy and forcing him into a mismatched system is damaging like taking a bust. Despite these pitfalls I attempted to do a pure BPA draft.
Using Fanspeak.com's mock draft simulator I set myself a few basic rules.
1. I could take any player, provided they fell three spots within the highest remaining overall player rank.
2. No quarterbacks would be selected.
3. I would not pick multiple players at positions where only one player starts (like taking three RBs, for example).
This is what I wound up with. It's not necessarily what I would have done, but what the board told me to do. Underneath there's a little justification why a general manager would make these picks.
First round, 28th pick overall: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
This was a no-brainer. Things fell into place just right that the Panthers had a chance to find their future left tackle at the back end of the first round. The measuables aren't there with Martin, but neither were Jordan Gross's in 2003. The hope is that his top level understanding of football concepts can transcend his lack of bulk and length to become a long-term option at offensive tackle.
Second round, 60th pick overall: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Fans will skewer us for taking a running back over wide receiver, but the value simply wasn't there. Let's face it: DeAngelo Williams could break down at any time and at this point Jonathan Stewart is a completely unknown quantities.
Yes it's a throwing league, but the best teams always have a rusher waiting in the wings. Seattle took Christine Michael last year despite having Marshawn Lynch, and we believe Carey can become an excellent NFL running back with perfect size.
Third round, 92nd pick overall: Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
A few years ago the Panthers found Charles Johnson in the third round and with a little work Chris Smith can be that kind of guy. It's unclear what the future holds for Greg Hardy and the Panthers can't afford to lose a pass rusher without a plan in place -- this is our plan.
Smith was a consistent pass rusher his senior season and while some might knock him down for his smaller size, we believe he can add some bulk to his frame without losing too much speed.
Fourth round, 128th overall: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Richardson is light, but electric. Let another team trade an earlier pick for DeSean Jackson, we think Richardson could be the same guy. He's lightning getting down the field and we believe this will translate well to the NFL. Add a few pounds and he would be taken much higher.
Great athleticism, good height and a football background in his family? In the fourth this was too good to pass up
Fifth round, 168th overall: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
It's BPA again and another great option for us. Ellington helps us in a variety of ways and immediately can be plugged in to play in the slot. Pair that with his ability to return kicks and this is our answer for losing Ted Ginn to free agency.
If Ricky can improve his route running we could have another Randall Cobb on our hands, that's great value -- whichever way you slice it.
Sixth round, 204th overall: Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida
We need high character, high effort guys for this football team and there are few better than Ron Powell. He's college football's Thomas Davis, an extremely talented outside linebacker with an ability to play in all phases of the game. Unfortunately he was knocked down because of two torn ACLs.
Powell can help us on special teams while giving us a great rotational linebacker. Make no mistake: We'd hear his name on day two if he wasn't hurt.
Seventh round, 225th overall: Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA
When you're this far back in the draft it's stupid to address needs. We'll leave that up to college scouting to get some priority UDFAs to compete at need positions. Instead we take another rotational defensive end who showed flashes last year. Consistency is his main problem, but we believe we can iron those problems out.