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Monday, April 26, 2010

Draft Day 3

Carolina spent day 1 inactive (thankfully, for the sake of future draft picks) and landed three of the top 100 players, all passing game pieces, in day two.

So as day three started, there was uncertainty in the air. What would be left at 112? Would any of the fast WR drop (mostly a concern of the Armanti Edwards trade)? Would Everson Griffen

Mardy Gilyard and Jacoby Ford, the fast return specialist WRs, had indeed gone before 112. Griffen went right after Gilyard in the top of 4. So as Carolina approached 112, they dealt down. The Jets gave them another 6th (their 4th) to move to 124. In the drop down, the only player I personally valued much was Georgia DT Geno Atkins, an undersized tweener who could rush hard from the inside or play the run outside (a la the Colts' Raheem Brock). As 124 approached, the consensus was defensive end or linebacker, and then came the pick:

Both. DE/LB Eric Norwood, South Carolina. A 6'1, 245 lb stand up linebacker, Norwood had a top notch 29 sacks in college, facing top notch SEC competition. He had two years as an end to start his college career, but had his best season in 2008 as a linebacker (9 sacks) and finished 2009 as a first team AP All American, with 7 sacks, 71 tackles, 11.5 stuffs, 2 INT, 3 blocked kicks. He looks to be an asset at both OLB and rush end, and certainly someone who you'd anticipate to see pop up in blitz sets and nickel defense soon. As well, the dynamic Norwood is said to have a rare passion for the game, and a motor that never stops. Chances are, he'll be the next great special teamer while finding his way onto the base defense.

Following that, Carolina lacked a 5th round pick (Tank Tyler trade) and their own 6th (Louis Leonard). But, thanks to trades with Oakland, NY Jets, and two compensatory picks, the team had four shots at adding solid depth. And with their history late in the draft (virtually all of their 6th and 7th round picks contribute), they expected good quality.

Greg Hardy (6'5, 280, DE, Mississippi) was the first, at 175. A former first round prospect, Hardy had 26 sacks in the SEC (including 10 in 2007). He had a chance at being a top prospect in the 2009 draft, but had injury concerns and stayed in. He got hurt again in 2009, and concerns over his game dropped him to the 6th round. Does he have the demeanor? Does he play with pain? It's hard to say. Is he a top rusher when healthy? Sure. In the 6th round, it's a luxury to find a raw player of Hardy's ability.

With the Jets' pick from the 4th round trade, they plucked a third receiver, David Gettis (6'3, 215, Baylor). Gettis is a projection of sorts - he's a size/speed prospect who has deep speed and an extra gear for the long passes, but doesn't do some of the little things as well as you might want of a big posession player. Running a 4.39 at his pro day, Baylor rarely let him show it on the field, with odd changes in the offense that left him producing only 4 scores - 3 as a senior.

At 202, the first compensatory pick, the Panthers tabbed Jordan Pugh (Texas A&M; 5'11, 200, 4.40). His pro day results compared favorably to combine prospects rated at the same level, including a 40 inch vertical jump. Pugh was a three year starter, two at corner and one (his senior) at free safety. He led the team in tackles as a junior corner, and has the versatility to play either.

Two picks later, they shocked the league (as much as one can, with a 204 pick) taking Tony Pike, QB (6'6, 220, Cincinnati), a player that would've been perfectly acceptable as a third round pick. I personally had Pike rated higher than all QBs but Bradford, McCoy and new teammate Clausen (not in that order), and had we taken the Golden Tate route (my 48 pick when on the clock), Pike would've made perfect sense at 78 or 112/124. A tall, lanky spread offense passer, he lacks top speed but has good footwork and accuracy on the run. He is a top pocket passer who has a lot of filling out physically and mentally to do, so he's still a project. But, he's a very talented passer. And on a team that had quarterback issues throughout OC Jeff Davidson's tenure (starting four QBs in 2007, and Jake Delhomme's collapse since), they felt like another arm was too good to pass up. It's hard to argue with the talent or the value.

Finally, with two 7th round picks, they drafted two more defensive backs. RJ Stanford (5'11, 185, Utah) and Robert McClain (5'9, 180, Connecticut). Stanford has athleticism better than his 7th round grade, having been recruited as a RB but moving to CB mid-rookie season. He played all four years, starting his senior year and nine games prior. He only picked one ball, but had numerous pass breakups. He's an athletic prospect, still learning defense and not likely ready to contribute yet.

McClain is a good analogue for 2009 7th round pick Captain Munnerlyn - a punt returner without height that otherwise is a top notch cover-2 type corner with physicality. He had 10 career INT with UConn, including a TD return against Cincinnati in 2008.
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