27 April 2012
The Carolina Panthers linebacking corps received a significant upgrade last night as the team spent their first round selection on Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. I had mentioned a couple weeks ago that Kuechly could possibly be the best player available at #9 and that ended up being true as the Panthers ended up taking them with their first round pick.
It was a little interesting to see the Panthers spend a top 10 pick on a linebacker as they already have a decent corps with Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and James Anderson, but this pick makes a lot of sense when you take a deeper look at it. Kuechly was easily the safest pick that the Panthers could have made at the time as it appears that he has a future in the NFL no matter what and while LB might not be as big of a need for the Panthers as DT, WR or CB, it was an area that they needed to address in this draft.
For starters, Thomas Davis' health is a huge concern as he is coming off knee surgery for the third straight year. Kuechly is versatile in that he can play all three linebacking positions, so he provides solid insurance for Davis if he gets injured. Another thing is that there have been hints of the Panthers moving to a 3-4 type system next season, so even if Davis is still injured, Kuechly will find himself starting in this defense. Instead of reaching for a player who may or may not fill one fo their other holes on defense, they took the best player available in Kuechly who will be a key contributor to the Panthers defense immediately.
I talked about Kuechly a little bit a couple weeks ago, and there really isn't much to dislike about this kid. He knows the game well, is solid in both run and pass defense, is excellent at closing in on opposing ball-carriers and usually succeeds at bringing him down. Most draft scouts have compared him to the likes of London Fletcher, Zach Thomas, Pat Angerer and even Brian Urlacher. The Panthers will likely be happy with their pick if he ends up similar to any of those players.
He played MLB and WLB at Boston College, but he is open to play an linebacker position in the NFL and he could find himself spread out among the defense depending on who is healthy. Kuechly also played some special teams in college, which also fills a need for the Panthers.
In the end, Kuechly is a safe pick for the Panthers and he should be a solid contributor to their defense at the very least. They may have had other needs that need to be addressed, but they can be addressed in later rounds as there are still some very good players available. Kuechly should be an impact player in his rookie season and Marty Hurney should be very satisfied with the decision he made.
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