With many holes, not a lot of picks, and no clear cut elite prospect available at 28 overall, the idea of trading down is alluring. Though it has not happened lately for the Panthers, it has happened a lot in the first round over the past two years.
If we do have a shot at trading down, a the key in my opinion could be this guy:
Dee Ford, edge player, Auburn
(6-2, 252, 4.53)
The high-motor pass rusher notched 10.5 sacks during the season, but really turned heads after a dominant Senior Bowl performance. He was almost unblockable while going up against the nation's top talent.
Ford was on Jaguars coach Gus Bradley's team at the Senior Bowl, and Bradley took the time to openly gush about Ford:
"Dee is exciting,"I really like his personality. I like his spirit. He loves the game and he showcases that on the practice field. Anytime a guy can come off the edge and show the ability to have some rushes in him, it really stands out."
When you watch this live, you can't help but notice that Bradley was genuine about liking the young man...on both a football and a personal level. It was almost a little weird. But he has good reason; Ford is potentially a fantastic fit for the pass-rushing LEO role in Bradley's defense. Jacksonville is in sore need of a dynamic pass rusher, and has finished dead last in sacks the past two years in a row under Bradley's watch. In a division that faces Andrew Luck twice yearly, you got to think that Bradley is desperate to enhance his pass rush.
(To put it into perspective, you could combine the Jags sack totals from the last TWO seasons, and still come up 9 short of what the Panthers had in 2013 alone)
Several teams after the Panthers could also be interested in Ford's services:
- The Patriots would love to add a pass rusher to complement Chandler Jones.
- The 49ers could be looking to keep up with Seattle in the pass rusher arms race, especially with Aldon Smith's situation being in flux.
- And of course the Seahawks have set the bar and the precedent for snatching a pass rusher early. Their bold move to grab Bruce Irvin early in 2011 paid off, as it helped them to hoist the Lombardi this year.
If the Jags want Ford, they will likely need to move up. Or even better for the Panthers, any of these other teams could want to move up ahead of each other. Trading with them would help by allowing us to move down less.
A #28 to #39 swap with the Jags should cost them at least their early 3rd round pick (#70), plus maybe another bone thrown-in like swapping spots in the 6th. If Ford is still on the board at pick 28 (i.e., the Cardinals and Saints passing on him), we could have a shot at a decent trade-back scenario on our hands.
What would your mock draft be with?:
6th (early in the round)
7th (early in the round)
Is it worth moving back? Would it be too far, or does the talent level even out enough to make it work out in our favor?