2014 NFL draft: Is Cyrus Kouandjio this year's Star?

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Injury concerns and fear cloud an otherwise perfect prospect for the Panthers.

Rewind three months and the idea of Cyrus Kouandjio being a Carolina Panther is a pipe dream. The technically sound right tackle is purpose-built for the NFL and he was universally hailed as a top-15 pick, despite questions whether his game could translate to the left. It's rare to see a right tackle get that kind of reputation, but he earned it.

Now the waters are muddier. Reports swirled from the combine that knee injuries caused red flags for several teams, just like reported heart problems did for Star Lotulelei a year ago. Now we're in the dark without any more information, such is the process. Kouandjio's camp are trying to dissuade the reports, NFL teams are staying mum on the topic and nobody has any idea where the Alabama offensive tackle will go.

Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network has an idea: He's putting him in Carolina and believes agility will mean he can transition to left tackle.

"I'm a big fan of Cyrus Kouandjio. I know he has some issues with his knee, and I don't know what his medical is. But the value on film, just watching him at Alabama, he dominates the line of scrimmage. I don't care how fast he runs the 40 in. That guy has quick feet, and he'd be perfect at left tackle."

This is now the most intriguing pre-draft story line for the Panthers -- what is the medical? Images of Jeff Otah dance through the heads of Panthers fans whenever they hear "offensive tackle" and "knee" in the same sentence, but it could be a case of painting with too broad a brush.

There's a hope that Carolina can be safe and No.28 and roll the dice on Kouandjio in the second round, but that opportunity may not arise. The Palm Beach Post is reporting that the Miami Dolphins could target the lineman with the No.19 pick, which some might find surprising but makes perfect sense if the medical checks out on him. If other teams have similar reports then he will not make it to the second round, it's that simple.

It's so easy to get caught up in wide receivers, heck I still have images of Odell Beckham Jr. catching Cam Newton passes in my head, but deep down we know the real issue is offensive tackle. If we assume the top four are gone by No.28 (Robinson, Mathews, Lewan, Martin) then it becomes a question of whether the team should look at Kouandjio or cross the chasm to lesser prospects. That's not an easy decision to make.

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