Defensive end might not be a true "need" position for the Panthers, but don't be surprised if General Manager Dave Gettleman still ends up selecting one in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Gettleman believes in solid play in the trenches, and he comes from a Giants organization that invested heavily at the defensive end position, and saw that investment pay off with two Super Bowl victories.
It shouldn't be surprising, then, that the Panthers are looking at the top defensive end prospects in this year's Draft as well. They already worked out Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy earlier this month, and, according to a tweet from Ian Rapoport, also recently worked out Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton.
Crichton is probably not a household name to most people, as he stayed under the national radar playing at Oregon State, but he has a very similar skill-set to Kony Ealy. Crichton is a talented athlete who is known for his versatility -- like Ealy, he frequently lined up at defensive end in base packages, before moving to defensive tackle in passing situations to rush the quarterback from the interior. Just like another pass rusher we know -- the Panthers very own Greg Hardy.
Quick film analysis:
Crichton is a fairly raw pass rusher at this stage in his development. He has an excellent first step but lacks any refined pass rushing moves, although he occasionally showed the ability to effectively use a swim move to get past offensive linemen. Despite standing 6-foot-3 inches and weighing 273 pounds, Crichton used excellent hand placement, leg drive and power on his bull rush and was often able to easily beat offensive linemen who weighed 40-60 pounds more than him.
Crichton also displays good awareness in the run game, as he often was able to diagnose the play right at the snap, shoot through the gap and make the tackle for a loss in the backfield.
Crichton will need to work on counter pass rushing moves, however, as he often had to resort to his bull rush to make an impact. Despite having a lot of success with it, there were times when offensive linemen were able to get their hands on him and shut him down. He also struggled maintaining proper pad level on a snap-to-snap basis, which occasionally took him out of running plays.
Despite some of these flaws, Crichton is a high-ceiling prospect whose versatility will earn him plenty of snaps early in his NFL career. Want to see versatile? Check out this film below against Oregon, where he played nose tackle. That's right, a 273-pound nose tackle. He was pretty effective at it, too.
Crichton is currently projected to go in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and is ranked as the fourth overall 4-3 defensive end, behind Jadeveon Clowney, Kony Ealy and Dee Ford. It's no secret the Panthers need help at wide receiver and on the offensive line, but if the value isn't there at those positions at the end of the second round, don't be surprised if Crichton ends up being a "BPA" selection, since you can never have too many pass rushers.