27 April 2012
The Panthers decided to play it safe and take the best guy available in LB Luke Kuechly in the first round, which was a fantastic selection but there are still other needs which need to be addressed. Fortunately for the Panthers, there were some teams that reached in the first round, leaving some very talented players still on the board and Carolina could easily grab one of them with their second round pick.
The way that I see it, the Panthers have big needs at defensive tackle, defensive tackle (for pass rush), corner back and wide receiver and they can take steps to filling those holes with their pick at #40. Who are the players available right now? We will take a look at some of them after the jump.
To make things easier on the eyes, I'll break things down by position
Brandon Thompson, Clemson - Thompson is an excellent run-stuffer and would immediately be an upgrade over just about anyone who the Panthers played at defensive tackle last season. He is quick off the line of scrimmage and has little trouble fighting off blockers to get to the ball-carrier. The issue with Thompson is that he isn't the best at rushing the passer and might not fit into the Panthers current scheme. Should the Panthers move to a 3-4, Thompson's role would be limited to holding off blockers and taking away his best asset, which is stopping the run. This is a moot point if they stick with the 4-3, but that is uncertain right now.
Devon Still, Penn State - There were many people who had Still going in the first round, but he eventually fell out of in favor of more superior players. It is hard to say that Still wouldn't be a great addition to the Panthers, though. He is a superb pass-rusher, has the ability to play at defensive end and has unreal strength & athleticism. If I was Marty Hurney, I would have Still on the top of my board because he fills a need, is versatile and was nothing but impressive in college. The one drawback is that he might be a better fit as a linebacker in a 3-4, which would put Carolina back to where they started with a hole to fill at DT. Still would at least contribute to the pass rush if anything and lord knows that area needs help.
Jerel Worthy, Michigan St.- Worthy is a proven talent at Michigan St, as he has been their top defensive tackle for the past three seasons. He has the size, strength and athleticism to be a top DT in the NFL, but consistency is an issue with him. After dominating the Big 10 for a few seasons, Worthy had an off-year in 2011 and it caused him to drop on a lot of people's draft boards. The potential is there, though and it's not just raw athleticism (*cough*Dontari Poe*cough*), Worthy has shown in games that he can be a great player but he hasn't been able to do it on a consistent basis.
Kendall Reyes, UCONN - Reyes has been a solid run defender and pass rusher at UCONN for the past couple of seasons and has also shown the ability to be effective in different schemes. His ceiling isn't as high as some of the other defensive tackles that might be available, but his versatility has to make him an attractive option to Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott.
Billy Winn, Boise St. - Winn is rated very high on NFL.com, and his ability to rush the passer effectively might be something the Panthers will look for. He isn't nearly as talented as the other names above, so he will likely be passed over but it's worth throwing his name out there.
Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama - Thought by many to be a first round pick and one of the best defensive backs in this draft, Jenkins is still without a team on day 2. His character issues and off-the-field problems have a lot of teams staying away from him but it is hard to question his talent. He excelled as a shutdown corner at Florida during his first three seasons there and has the tools to do the same in the NFL. He ended up playing his senior year at Northern Alabama against weaker competition, but his performance at the Senior Bowl showed that he could definitely hang with tougher opponents. The question is whether or not the Panthers want to take a chance on a player with a lot of problems off-the-field.
Jayron Hosely, Virginia Tech - Hosely has terrific speed and coverage skills which could make him a solid #1-2 corner in the NFL. The problem with him is that he is not the biggest player out there and can easily be taken advantage of by bigger receivers. He managed to hold his ground well against some bigger opponents in the ACC, but can he do the same in the NFL?
Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech - The Panthers had one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL last season and they can add another dimension to it by adding a weapon like Hill. At 6'4", Hill is a big target and his speed is a force to be reckoned with. Cam Newton is the type of QB who can make his receivers better, so adding a talent like Hill will make Carolina's offense even more dangerous than it is right now. He isn't Calvin Johnson, but he could turn into a #1 receiver sometime in his career.
Reuben Randle, LSU - Randle does just about everything well. He runs good routes, has solid hands and isn't a bad run blocker either. He appears to be a very safe option for teams looking for a receiver. Carolina definitely would benefit from having a player like him, but they have a similar player in Brandon LaFell already on the team. While Randle's ceiling appears to be higher than LaFell's, most of his characteristics are similar to that of a possession receiver rather than a deep threat.
Alshon Jeffrey - Jeffrey is a big man who should be a huge threat for any team's red zone offense. Carolina has struggled in that area over the last few years, so having a big target like Jeffrey would be a great addition. Jeffrey was projected to be a top-end pick sometime last year but his stock has fallen a lot recently. It has been said that he's been out of shape and hasn't been training hard enough, which is a problem when you rely more on physical play than speed as a receiver.
Brian Quick, Appalachian State - Similar to Jeffrey, Quick has good size and should be a threat in the red zone. He also has the speed and potential to be a good #2 receiver in the NFL, so I wouldn't dismiss the idea of the Panthers being interested in him. However, I do think there will likely be better players available when the Panthers are ready to make their pick later tonight.
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