The Carolina Panthers are still finalizing their draft board, evident by the final round of late meetings with prospects. No option is quite as scary and plausible than outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who the team met with Monday according to Steve Gorten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Shazier is a lean, athletic linebacker who is gifted in coverage and pass rushing. He shares many of the qualities Thomas Davis had when he entered the league and if you're looking for a more recent comparison he's essentially this year's Lavonte David.
There is nothing wrong with the Ohio State product, in fact he's one of my favorite defensive prospects in the draft. The issue, however, is diminishing returns. Taking an outside linebacker in the first round adds another pass rushing element to the defense, truly forming a fearsome corps. Suddenly you have a unit with two elite defensive ends, the best middle linebacker in the NFL and a young aggressive outside linebacker -- all kept afloat with the ever-steady presence of two reliable defensive tackles and the seemingly-ageless Thomas Davis.
That said, the gamble is clear. Does Shazier really add much to a 12-4 team that took a huge step backwards since the close of the season? The term "bigger fish to fry" immediately comes to mind, but my idea of big fish could be very different to Dave Gettleman's. It's ostensibly the same argument that was made against taking Luke Kuechly in 2012. Obviously Kuechly is amazing, a home-run pick -- but for a team with as many needs as Carolina it seems foolish.
The lead up to the 2014 Draft has been eerily quiet. Perhaps it's apathy from too much of a layoff since the combine, but it feels like people are sick of the whole thing. This is translating to news, where very little information is trickling out.
There are no certainties when it comes to the draft, but draft-week meetings are normally a sign that a team is significantly interested and hoping they can sneak in a private visit while the rest of the football world is concentrating on the draft. Either that or it's simply a case of ensuring no stone is left unturned. Either way this is shaping up to the be the most fascinating draft in recent memory.