After months of watching college football, watching film, and making mock drafts, I may as well post how I would have done it. Usually the front office shows that they are smarter than we think. But on the flip-side, sometimes the projections of objective fans are pretty spot on too. I'm learning that if you got a gut feeling on a guy, go with it... you might be right.
The more I think on the top 3 picks, the more I love them. I liked Kelvin Benjamin and Trai Turner pre-draft, but didn't think the Panthers were interested. Because of last year's draft, I over-assumed that the Panthers heavily preferred experienced seniors and pro-ready guys. Benjamin and Turner had tons of potential, but both were only redshirt sophmores. I'm kind of glad to see we can swing the bat the other way too. So I'm keeping them in the re-draft.
1.28 Kelvin Benjamin, WR (6-5, 240)
After 3 years, this pick finally addresses the "draft Cam a weapon" issue. It addresses the "red-zone threat" and "lack of a big target" issues. I'll say it like I said the morning of the draft: "You're not drafting him for what he is now. You're drafting him for what he could become in the future". Giddy about this pick. A
2.60 Kony Ealy, DE (6-4, 273)
I don't think you can deny BPA here. Especially the mentality of keeping a strength strong. I probably would have been tempted with Morgan Moses or Billy Turner here, but you got to pull the trigger on Ealy in this spot. In the 2nd round, you need guys you can guarantee will be solid starters. A+
3.92 Trai Turner, G (6-3, 310)
I've spent two years pounding the table for some mauling offensive guards. In 2012 they took one in Silatolu. In 2013 I was a huge Larry Warford guy, and was admittedly disappointed we went with Short and Kugbila instead. After Getts said earlier this year that they viewed Kugbila as a 2014 pick, I assumed we wouldn't draft another guard. So I'm happy to see that the brass went for another guy, rather than being stubborn and sticking with a guy with issues.
I'm a big fan of La'el Collins, LSU's LT. When scouting him, Turner would stand out sometimes. I'm pretty stoked about the idea of our RBs getting to run behind a player like Turner. We're a power running team. Rewatch the goalline plays during our playoff game against San Fran. Our guards were embarrassed multiple times, and they were the major reason why we didn't get into the endzone. A
4.128 Cam Fleming, OT Stanford (6-5, 323)
I couldn't pass on the big OT here. I had a 3rd round grade on him, so he would have been great value at a need position. Even as a 4th rounder, I believe he could have challenged this year for a starter's spot at RT. Even if he didn't start, our OT depth is abysmal. He fits our style of play. He could have paired nicely with Trai Turner. He was highly intelligent and blew up the Wonderlic (which apparently we like now). After seeming to be interested in him, I'm pretty surprised we passed on him.
5.168 (no trade) Robert Herron, WR Wyoming (5-9, 193)
He's another guy I had a third round grade on, so he's awesome value here. Could have eventually added a nice speed element to go with Benjamin. He's a scrappy LA kid that had multiple visits with the team. Again shocked we passed on him...and absolutely pissed he went to the Bucs in the 6th round (How did they get Evans, ASJ, and Herron...to go along with Vincent Jackson?)
6.204 Andre Hal, CB Vanderbilt (5-10, 188)
Tough versatile CB who won some good match-ups in college. Could have a least competed with Josh Thomas.
7.225 Ahmad Dixon, SS Baylor (6-0, 212)
Another future option for a box safety
Tons of options so I'll just go with my top 3:
1. Isaiah Crowell, RB (5-11, 224)-Get a potential stud with a good mix of power and speed, at minimum risk and cost
2. Brandon Coleman, WR (6-6, 225)- Maybe he failed medicals? This dude was on the same trajectory as Mike Evans back in 2012, then he had surgery...
3. Cornelius Lucas, OT (6-8, 316)- Injured, but he reminded me a lot of Morgan Moses at a much better value. Poor bending ability, but can use insane length to be effective
Looking forward to 2015:
Last year this time, I said our first-round pick would be Antonio Richardson, because we would be picking in the early 20s, would need an OT, and guys like Lewan and Kouandjio would be off the board. It looked to be pretty accurate until he failed medicals at the combine...and went undrafted.
This year I'm going with us picking late 20s again. I got two choices for our first-rounder:
A) La'el Collins, OT LSU (6-5, 315)
He's a "run first" power style OT, and some may label him as a guard at the next level. This may cause him last long enough to get to us, especially since next year could be a deep OT class.
B) Jaelen Strong, WR Arizona St. (6-4,205)
Big WR with the tools to make some noise one day. Had 1100+ yards and 7 TDs this year. Perhaps some more "explosive" wideouts go ahead of him, allowing him the chance to make it to us.
Feel free to post your own redrafts or future picks if you like.