We're back on pace with the 9th pick of the 2012 BTSC Community Mock Draft! Thanks go to WolfpackSteelersFan for the measured analysis and thoughtful write up. Next up: Buffalo Bills, and they'll be represented by Cannon36. -barnerburner-
The Carolina Panthers need some serious help on the defensive side of the football. In 2011, Carolina struggled to stop both the run and the pass. They gave up the eighth most rushing yards, the ninth most passing yards, and the fifth most total yards in the NFL last season. They were also eighth worst in yards per rush, and tied for last place in adjusted yards per pass (all rankings from PFR.com). So, it appears that the Panthers should really pick a top defensive player with the ninth pick in the draft. The question is, which player is the best choice and where is their biggest need? After checking a few draft sites, I saw, CB, DT, and LB all as their biggest need. Given their poor rankings in both rush and pass defense, maybe each position is equally as big of a need. If they were to consider offense with this pick, a top young WR would not be a bad idea for them, since Steve Smith is nearing the end of his career.
I also checked in with the fine folks at Cat Scratch Reader, the Panthers' SBN blog, to get their insight into Panthers' needs and who they favored for the ninth pick. They were as varied in opinion as the draft sites that I had seen. Some at CSR thought they were set at DT with several young options, while others thought their young options were too mediocre. Others favored LB or even OL, while most agreed that CB should only be the pick if Claiborne fell to 9, which hasn't happened in our mock. If I went DT, who would be the choice? Should I choose Dontari Poe? After he blew up the combine, some have compared Poe to Haloti Ngata. Or, is he merely another workout warrior who has all the measurables but will be a bust? It doesn't matter since, he's gone already. I would have passed, though. I just don't think a guy whose biggest factor is upside potential due to the combine is a top ten pick.
As I have continued my research, I have narrowed my picks down to the following possibilities: DE Quinton Coples, DT Fletcher Cox, LB Luke Kuechly, and G David DeCastro. Coples is rated as the top pass rushing DE in this draft by most sites that I have seen. He appears to have all the tools, and he has prototypical size for the position. The knock on him is that he lacks consistency, sometimes taking plays off, and he is a selfish player. In the past season, he resisted his coaches' moving him to DT because he was worried how it would impact his draft status. Cox has lined up at both DT and DE, and he has a good motor. But, as mention above, the Panthers do have some young DTs that they drafted last season.
Kuechly and DeCastro seem to be the safest picks at this point. Kuechly is the top ILB in this draft, with two years of elite production at Boston College. David DeCastro has been talked about as the best OG in the past ten years. The issue with each is that the conventional wisdom is that you don't take an ILB or a G in the top ten of the draft. Since Coples went at pick 7, my choices are now down to Kuechly or DeCastro, who seem safe bets to be solid starters for the next decade.
Ultimately, to me both were equal value, but the greatest need for Carolina is on the defensive side of the ball. Luke Kuechly, from all reports that I have seen, is a tackling machine. If the young DT's that the Panthers have pan out, then Kuechly should add a lot in terms of shutting down the run for the Panthers. Even if they struggle, he should help them out. With 4.58 40 speed, he should also be fine in coverage across the middle. Coming from BC, I would expect him to have a high football IQ, as well.
BTSC 2012 Community Mock Draft Picks: