Luke Kuechly

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 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

How Dolphins defensive switch impacts draft

The Miami Dolphins announced today that they will be switching from the 3-4 defense which Bill Parcells’ staff instituted, back to a 4-3 system.

It’s a surprising move considering GM Jeff Ireland has spent a significant portion of his career working under Parcells, and has been with a team running a 3-4 base defense since he and Parcells first teamed up in Dallas in 2003.

The switch indicates that the Dolphins are prepared to enter into full rebuilding mode, a process which could take up to three years. Transitioning from one defensive scheme to another is a difficult process, and it takes time to acquire the right personnel.

The one asset the Dolphins do have is depth in the front seven. They’ll need to reshuffle the lineup, but should be able to piece together a decent defensive line. The issue will be at linebacker. Karlos Dansby will return (at inside linebacker most likely), and Kevin Burnett may land in the starting lineup again by default (probably strong-side linebacker). However, the Dolphins will need to add another starter, preferably someone who is strong in coverage.

Depending on their confidence in Cameron Wake and Koa Misi’s ability to transition to defensive end, the Dolphins could target a pass rusher with their 1st-round pick. Nick Perry and Quinton Coples would be the most likely targets.

There is also an outside shot that the Dolphins could target Luke Kuechly with the 9th pick. The move would necessitate moving Dansby to outside linebacker, where he played early in his career with the Cardinals.

Ultimately it’s too early to tell which direction the Dolphins will go, but this shift in schemes could definitely shake up the draft. It will be worth keeping an eye on their transactions in the coming months to get a better idea of who has a future with the team, and who is being phased out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Dolphins 3 Comments

Luke Kuechly scouting report

Luke Kuechly ILB Boston College
Ht: 6’3″

Wt: 235

Good overall size and strength. Plenty of experience; starter since true freshman season. Intelligent on and off the field. Team leader on defense; will occasionally make pre-snap adjustments. Elite instincts and awareness. Looks comfortable dropping into zone coverage; does a nice job keeping his eyes in backfield and reading quarterback. Shows sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability. Not the fastest athlete, but makes up for it with impressive anticipation and by taking great angles. Very reliable, fundamental tackler.
Lacks fluid athleticism to excel in man coverage. Will struggle against most pass-catching tight ends and running backs at the next level. Strength is decent, but not enough to pose a threat as a pass rusher up the middle; if an interior lineman gets his hands on him, he struggles to disengage.
Kuechly is a James Laurinaitis clone. Nothing about his measurables make him look like an elite NFL talent, but he more than makes up for it in preparation and instincts. He is as polished as a 20-year-old college linebacker can be and should have no issues immediately stepping into a starting lineup.
2011 vs UCF
2011 vs Florida State
2010 vs Nevada (bowl game)
2010 vs Notre Dame
2010 vs Clemson 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off