We all remember how dominant the New York Giants defensive
line has been in the past decade under the leadership of Panthers new general
manager Dave Gettleman. The newcomer's
plan for his first go round with Carolina proved to have the same philosophy: A
strong front four can single handedly anchor an entire 4-3 defense.
Make no mistake about it; Dave threw some wrenches in this
draft as well. Some of these head
scratchers could foreshadow what is to come for the Carolina Panthers
organization. The Panthers five picks
could make an instant impact, or possibly have a big role in the future. Let us take a look at what these draft picks
bring to the table.
1. Star Lotulelei DT Utah
I will start off by saying this: Lotulelei
comes from humble beginnings. He chose
not to attend the draft and stay home with his family. When his name was called he immediately got
emotional and hugged his family while simply wearing a t-shirt and shorts, not
a designer suit and tie. This is by far the Panthers best pick in the
draft. Star can contribute immediately and
have the biggest impact in the 2013 NFL season.
A couple of months before the draft most thought Lotulelei would be a
top 5 pick until a heart condition presented itself at the combine and forced
Star out of action. It took the Panthers
a mere 30 seconds to lock in their pick.
That sends a strong message that they got their guy.
One of most impressive aspects of Lotulelei's
game is his durability that is unmatched by any other player in the draft. At
times, he played up to 85 snaps per game at Utah. He is 311 pound beast in the middle. He will command a double team every play he
is out there.
There are qualities that will not show up
in the stat sheet. Pushing the
pocket. He may not get 10 sacks this
year, but he will consistently make it difficult for opposing QB's to get the
ball off cleanly. With Lotulelei's
dominance, it might even allow DE's Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy see single
coverage at times. Field day.
In my humble opinion, the best part about
this selection is the fact that he will unleash the linebackers to flow freely
and make plays. Even with a shaky DT position
last year with the exception of the
occasional Dwan Edwards sack, rookie Luke Keuchly still managed to lead to NFL in
tackles. With Lotulelei manning the
middle, we should expect to see Jon Beason and Luke maneuvering with less
blockers in their path and making a huge imprint on the game.
Finally, he is great in the pass-defense
area. If he can not quite get to the QB,
he puts his paws in the air and deflects passes. Do you know what that means? Batted footballs going straight up in the air
for interceptions. Did I mention, we
drafted him to stop the run.
Period. That is what he is here
to do and the coaching staff expects him to contribute mightily to that area of
the defensive game.
Expect Lotulelei to develop into an
excellent DT for the Panthers for years to come. He is NFL ready, and his upside is
tremendous. This pick alone could land
the Panthers their first playoff berth in nearly 5 years.
2. Kawaan Short DT Purdue
This was an interesting selection in the
second round to say the least. I think
all of Panther Nation expected them to pick a second WR to learn from Steve
Smith, or possibly a CB to replace Chris Gamble. I know I was shocked when I heard Short's
name called. Now that I have gotten over
the back to back DT selections, I see what Gettleman is building here. He is constructing this defense from the inside
Short is an excellent pass rusher. Gettleman called him the best pass rushing
defensive tackle in the entire draft. He
will make an excellent complement to Star Lotulelei as the combine for stopping
the run and rushing the passer. I know
that DL coach Eric Washington has never been happier with a draft. I am stoked to see these two combine and
create havoc for opposing QB's and RB's this season.
3. Edmund Kugbila OG Valdosta State
With the selection of an offensive lineman
in the fourth round (Did not have a third round pick), the Panthers are clearly
prepping for LG Jordan Gross to be on his way out soon. Age is a factor here. Gross restructured his deal in Carolina a
couple of months ago to ensure his stability with the franchise. It is no secret; however, that Gettleman is
looking into the future.
Kugbila played at a Division 2 school and
is a great raw talent. The only knock on this kid is that he lacks aggressiveness
and the "nasty" factor the Panthers offensive line has historically possessed.
He is as quick as a hiccup, which will be great so he can block in a turbulent Panthers
offensive scheme. Look for this pick to
eventually be the Jordan Gross replacement.
4. A.J. Klein ILB Iowa State
No. No. No.
This pick raised many eyebrows.
Fans are saying, another linebacker? Yes. Personally, I believe this is
Jon Beason's replacement. I am a huge Beason fan and absolutely do not want to see
him go. With that being said, he has had
some injury issues throughout his career and his price tag is one of the heftiest
in the entire NFL. This could also be
the Thomas Davis replacement. Who really knows?
Keep in mind, these big moves probably will not be made this offseason,
but rather next offseason. You have to
wonder if the organization is moving on, by getting a young talent that can
slide right into the defense to play alongside Luke Kuechly next year.
On the contrary, I expect Klein to make an
impact in special teams this season. That is all. The linebackers are plentiful in Carolina at
the moment after they added LB Chase Blackburn from Gettleman's former team,
the New York Giants. The LB core will be dominant playing behind the monstrous defensive
line the Panthers have conjured.
5. Kenjon Barner RB Oregon
This is the big wrench I referenced earlier. When Marty Hurney went on a historic spending
spree in the offseason of 2009, he re-signed multiple Panthers to colossal
deals. Can you name the running back he
re-signed for an outrageous amount of money?
That's correct. DeAngelo
Williams. Williams is a personal favorite of mine that catches a lot of heat
and criticism. I believe when DeAngelo
gets an adequate amount of carries, he is one of the most productive backs in
the NFL. Look back at the season finale
of 2012 when Stewart was out with an ankle injury. Williams racked up 210 yards rushing and 2 TD's,
and Panthers single game rushing record.
The only questions Dave Getteman has legitimately
dodged so far in Carolina occur when questions are posed concerning DeAngelo's
future. His most recent response was, "Right now, he's
on the roster." This is foreshadowing what
is to come, indicated clearly by his comment and his sixth round selection of
Kenjon is Williams replacement. If a trade is not posed for Williams before
the season starts, then he will remain on the roster and probably start. If a team comes calling, you have to believe
the Panthers will listen. Look for Barner to sit back and learn from Williams
as the both have the same playing style.
Barner is a shifty, change of pace back most relatable to Deron Sproles
of the Saints. He can be effective in
the return game as well. I believe the
Panthers will try and get him on the field by involving him in the screen game
and also some pitches of some sort. This
was a great pick, as he was the best talent left on the board. Will we see an all Oregon backfield (Stewart,
Barner) in the Carolina Panthers future?
It is obvious that Gettleman drafted for the
future, as he only addressed one true need, DT.
Overall, I give this draft a B.
Some of the picks have big upside if utilized properly. A few questions remain: Can these picks contribute to a Carolina
Panthers playoff run? Will they make an
immediate impact? Are they replacements
for all-time Panther greats? Only time