Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers needed to upgrade the talent around Cam Newton, and while they didn’t immediately address their offensive needs, they ended up with a solid group which should help Newton develop in his sophomore season.

The selection of Luke Kuechly came as a surprised, but it was a welcomed one. Kuechly was the best player on the board and will immediately step into a starting role. He is expected to move into the middle linebacker position, with Jon Beason shifting to weak-side linebacker.

I was surprised by the selection of Amini Silatolu, and thought it was a reach, but I do understand their desire to address the interior offensive line. The main issue I have with the selection, however, is the fact that Cordy Glenn was still on the board.

Frank Alexander was a reach in the 4th round. He fits the mold of the type of well-rounded end the Panthers were looking for, but he has an uphill to earn playing time in Carolina. He’ll battle Thomas Keiser and Eric Norwood for playing time.

I love the selection of Joe Adams. At this stage of his career he’s nothing more than a vertical threat, but he’ll have the opportunity to work with Steve Smith in Carolina, one of the game’s elite undersized receivers.

Josh Norman could prove to be a steal in the 5th round, but does come with some character concerns. Having Norman and Brandon Hogan in the same secondary is scary thought. Clearly the Panthers are becoming one of the teams that isn’t concerned with character.

Selecting Brad Nortman in the 6th round was almost as bad as the Jaguars selection of Bryan Anger in the 3rd round. While Anger was a reach, at least he was the elite punter in this year’s class. Nortman was barely on the radar screen. There’s just no reason to waste a pick on a guy like Nortman. A handful of punters of his caliber can be found in the free agency process after each draft.

D.J. Campbell was a solid 7th-round pick. He’s best suited to play free safety, but will enhance his chances of making the final roster if he can demonstrate some versatility in training camp.

Overall, this wasn’t the most exciting draft class, but I like the Panthers approach – especially in the 1st round. Kuechly may not change the direction of this franchise on his own, when rebuilding teams can’t afford to pass up sure things in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Panthers Comments Off

Carolina Panthers select Amini Silatolu, Grade C

The Carolina Panthers needed to address the offensive line at some point, but I am a little surprised by the pick.

Amini Silatolu is somewhat raw and is coming from a lower division which raises further concerns. He definitely has the size and strength, but I don’t view him as a guy that can step in and start from day one. With Cordy Glenn still on the board, this was a questionable decision.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers Comments Off

Carolina Panthers select Luke Kuechly, Grade A+

This is a brilliant pick for the Carolina Panthers. No, it’s not their biggest need, but either Luke Keuchly or Jon Beason can shift over to weak-side linebacker.

The Panthers are still a long way from being serious contenders, so simply adding the best available player is a smart move. Kuechy is an absolute sure thing. He may not fully live up to expectations but, at worst, the Panthers got themselves a very solid starter for the next decade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers Comments Off

Draft Needs: Carolina Panthers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Carolina Panthers [full archive here].

Season Recap: Cam Newton proved many doubters wrong and finished with perhaps the greatest rookie QB season of all-time. The future looks very bright for Carolina fans, but there are still many holes to be filled. All eyes will be on Newton as he enters year two in the league.

Team Needs:
1. Defensive Tackle: The Panthers defense finished 28th in 2011 and the problems began upfront. Carolina needs a dominant presence in the middle to free up the linebackers and edge rushers. Fletcher Cox has been linked to the Panthers in many mock drafts and would be a great building block for the young defense.

2. Cornerback: Carolina doesn’t have much at the cornerback position and needs to find an upgrade over Captain Munnerlyn. Stephen Gilmore is the second best corner on the draft and should be available at pick number nine. Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick are options in round two.

3. Wide Receiver: With the addition of Cam Newton, Steve Smith showed the world he still has elite talent. Smith will be 33 by the start of the season and could use a playmaker opposite him to take off some pressure. Newton wouldn’t mind another weapon, as well. Michael Floyd is a reasonable selection if available. The Panthers could also choose to wait until round two and grab Mohamed Sanu or Alshon Jeffrey.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Panthers Comments Off

Panthers targeting receiver in 1st round?

Most mock drafts have the Carolina Panthers matched up with a defensive lineman in the 1st round, but their recent pre-draft visits may indicate another strategy.

Visits don’t necessarily translate to genuine interest in a player but when teams take a closer look at multiple players at the same position, that’s usually a good indication of where their interests lie.

The Panthers have already arranged visits with Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright – the only three consensus 1st-round receivers.

This certainly doesn’t mean the Panthers are locked in to this approach – they’ve also visited two two potential top-10 defensive linemen – but it does indicate they’re at least entertaining the idea of upgrading the talent around Cam Newton.

Personally, I think it would be a wise choice. After spending two 3rd-round picks on defensive tackles in 2011, there’s no need to bring in another rookie so soon. This is Cam Newton’s team, and they would be wise to give him all the support he needs to flourish.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers 2 Comments

Panthers showing interest in defensive linemen

The Carolina Panthers have been busy preparing for the NFL Draft, already hosting at least three players for pre-draft visits.

The Panthers have reportedly met with defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive ends Chandler Jones and Quinton Coples. Both Coples and Brockers are likely 1st rounders, who the Panthers may consider at No. 9.

Are the Panthers targeting Brockers?

Based on the Panthers’ perceived weakness at defensive tackle, Brockers has frequently been popping up in connection with the team in mock drafts. However, the Panthers invested two 3rd-round picks in Sione Fua and Terrell McClain a season ago. Brockers is a penetrating three-technique, who would likely bump McClain from the starting lineup if he were to join the Panthers.

Defensive end was expected by many to be further down the Panthers list of needs, but their apparent interest in Coples and Jones may indicate otherwise.

Coples, a possible top-10 pick, is a true three-down lineman (when he wants to be) and would be a nice compliment to Charles Johnson. Jones, on the other hand, is more of a pure pass rusher and likely would be used as a part of rotation with Johnson and Greg Hardy.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers Comments Off

Kendall Wright to the Carolina Panthers?

The Carolina Panthers clearly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but to what lengths will they go to surround Cam Newton with more talent?

Justin Blackmon would be an obvious choice if he were on the board, but it seems unlikely that he would slip past the Rams, Redskins and Jaguars. That leaves the Panthers with two options if they wish to address this need in the 1st round: Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd.

The top 10 may be too early for either, but it would be a risky move to trade down in hopes of landing one later in the 1st round. While No. 8 or 9 may seem early, they could easily both be off the board by No. 15.

So which one could be worth the risk in the top 10?

Conventional wisdom says go with Floyd, the more traditional No. 1 receiver due to his size. Wright is only 5’10″ and there is not a strong track record for receivers under 6’0″ who are selected in the top 10. While Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn achieved some measure of success, Ginn, Warrick, Howard and even Hilliard fell well short of expectations.

But Wright may be different.

In recent years, more teams are making smaller receivers the focal point of their offense. This past season seven receivers listed at under 6’0″ were the leading receiver on their team, including Wes Welker and Carolina’s Steve Smith.

Now one could argue that Wright is too similar to Smith, which would make it difficult to find starring roles for each in the offense. To a certain extent this is true, but Smith turns 33 in May and can’t be relied upon much longer. And who better for Wright to study under than Steve Smith?

Taking Wright in the top 10 definitely goes against the grain, but could prove to be an excellent long-term investment, and one which Cam Newton is sure to appreciate.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Carolina Panthers

Three years from now, when the Carolina Panthers have replaced the Lions as the laughingstock of the NFL, we’ll look back on this draft as the turning point for the franchise. GM Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera have hitched their wagons to Cam Newton and their future with the franchise is now directly tied to Newton’s success.

You can say all you want about Newton’s athleticism and arm strength, the only thing that matters is his sense of entitlement. Has a quarterback with an overinflated ego ever been selected in the top 10 and gone on to great success in the NFL? Handing millions of dollars to a guy like Newton before he sets foot on the field is a recipe for failure. He’ll provide some highlights early in his career, just like Vince Young did in Tennessee, but this story isn’t going to have a happy ending for anyone involved.

As much as I dislike the selection of Newton, I love Terrell McClain and Sione Fua for the Panthers. Their interior defensive line is a mess and both players could wind up starting as rookies. Landing both was a brilliant move because they compliment each other perfectly. McClain is an athletic penetrating tackle, while Fua is a big, physical space eater.

Brandon Hogan is the next Pacman Jones. He’s talented, but causes nothing but trouble off the field. If I were a GM, I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. I was shocked to hear his name called as early as the 4th round.

Kealoha Pilares was a reach in the 5th round and it’s unfortunate that the Panthers waited this long to land a receiver. With Steve Smith likely on his way out, they could have used a receiver in the 3rd or 4th round.

Lawrence Wilson had great value in the 6th round. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but due to the lack of depth in Carolina there’s a decent chance that he could win the starting job at weak-side linebacker.

There were better players on the board when the Panthers selected Zach Williams, but they needed to add depth to the offensive line. He’ll likely backup Ryan Kalil at center and possibly provide depth at guard if needed.

I don’t like Lee Ziemba nearly as much as most (some thought he could be a 2nd or 3rd round pick) but in the 7th round he’s worth the risk. He’s built like a tackle but lacks the athleticism to play the position. Ideally he should shift inside to guard, but most teams hesititate to put a player with his height on the interior line.

As I said in the intro, this draft – and really just the selection of Newton – is going to run the Panthers franchise into the ground. I’m tempted to give them a failing grade, but I like the selections of McClain and Fua enough to bump them up a letter grade. I’m willing to go on record predicting the Panthers will have a new GM, head coach and starting quarterback the next time they make the playoffs.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Panthers Comments Off

The worst pick in the 2011 NFL Draft: Armanti Edwards

Worst trade in draft history?

The worst pick of the 2011 NFL Draft has already been made.

With the 89th pick in the 2010 Draft the Carolina Panthers selected Armanti Edwards, a former quarterback from Appalachian State whom they are converting to receiver. It may have been a slight reach, but nothing outrageous.

Unfortunately in order to get that 89th pick they had to give up a king’s ransom.

The Panthers sent their 2011 2nd-round pick to New England, which ended up becoming the 33rd pick in this year’s draft.

With that pick, the Patriots are going to get an instant-impact player. The Panthers, meanwhile, are stuck with Edwards, who appeared in just three games as a rookie and is still searching for his first career reception.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Panthers 1 Comment

Arizona Cardinals could trade up for No. 1 pick

Yesterday I speculated that the 49ers could be a candidate to trade up for the No. 1 pick in an effort to land Blaine Gabbert. Another team in the mix to move up No. 1 is the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals have made their interest in Gabbert very clear, and I believe there is a 99% chance they would select Gabbert if he falls to No. 5.

However, I also believe there is a slim chance that he gets past the Panthers, Bills and Bengals. In order to land Gabbert, they may need to move up, and the only safe way to assure he’s on the board they would be to move to No. 1. Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Cardinals, Panthers 1 Comment