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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Draft: Circumstance, Luck

Reading through mocks, scenarios, wish lists, arguments, and analysis (both professional and amateur), there’s a wide range of things that people want/fear/expect at the 9 pick for Carolina.

But, essentially, there’s a massive amount of uncontrollable things that happen ahead of that pick, and all Carolina picks. They only had true control over the pick last year, with Cam Newton. Outside of that scenario, the only controllable circumstances happen when the team is already on the clock – whoever is picked will be far more based on what’s left, a matter of what other teams think and a little luck.

Control outside of those restraints costs – trade-ups are expensive. Carolina’s already paid a heavy price for just such a thing, and Marty Hurney routinely fails the team in that regard. The risk is so much higher than the reward, and even when it does work, the price is high. Hopefully, the lack of trades in 2010, 2011 have been part of a learning process, that will get back to the Hurney that might trade up three spots for a need player (04) or down ten spots into the heart of a talented draft (07). For that matter, 2011 was a far more need-based draft than you’d wish, for a young team that still had so many places to upgrade.

I’ve personally become far too need-centric this year in my wants.
I’ll fully admit that the safest picks right now aren’t at the places the team needs the most help. I don’t get that excited about a guard or MLB pick at 9. They’re fine players, but are they that much better than what will be there at 50? Do those players, even if they’re the best player, radically change things compared to their equivalent a round later? That’s why those players don’t go in the top ten. I guess OT doesn’t have that risk, though then you’re discussing whether a RT is worth the 9 pick (since Jordan Gross isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I have worries about such a high pick at a non-blue chip position). Still, if you want immediate impact, it’s hard to do better than OL, where you can all but guarantee a starter and you expect 1200 snaps out of a starting lineman. It has that “protect your investment” feel to it. Right or wrong, people assign a decade to a starting lineman’s tenure before he steps on the field, and for that, I guess the last tackle we drafted in the top ten has paid off – Jordan Gross starts his tenth season this year.

I don’t even know what to do with the LB pick discussion, as much as we might be in need of depth/potential starter ability, I don’t know where Kuechly fits in. If everyone’s healthy, which multi-million starter sits? He helps none in the 3-4, as well, so it’s not likely you find ways to make him an extra LB. He’s not your chuck-the-TE, on the line OLB that this defense could use (James Anderson is a fine player, but he seems to play a very WLB role at SLB). WR I can argue either way – but I don’t think, outside of a true difference maker, that a WR will make a uge difference. Is Michael Floyd better at some things than Will Blackmon? Sure. Does that make him the potential star that Blackmon seems to be? In my opinion, no. So do you put a #9 into what looks to be a really good #2 receiver? Floyd seems, to me, more Keyshawn Johnson than Andre Johnson (or Calvin Johnson). He definitely fits the offense however, and maybe he can be enough of a deep threat jumping for the ball but I don’t know if he’ll spend a lot of time running away from defenders.

The team seems content at DT – which seems to be a mistake – but while Ron Rivera will let you know what he thinks, without smokescreens, he’s also not telling you what happens if DT is at the top of his board (my problem is, I don’t see the DTs as worthy right now, and I’d much prefer a veteran addition). CB, my greatest need, is suddenly a disjointed group of shady kids, where there was once the feeling that you could pick between Morris Claiborne (largely expected to go top 5) and Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick was busted for drugs, and at his size there’s concern that he’s athlete enough to be a top ten. The maturity level drops a good bit from there, among the guys typically thought talented enough to be a first rounder.

I don’t think DE is the weak spot that DT or CB is – I think we could use depth at minimum, but with fewer snaps or personal growth, Greg Hardy can be enough. His numbers more or less mirrored Charles Johnson’s, though part of that was a late-season let-up by an injured Johnson, who braved through some bangups but wasn’t effective at all. I have some reservations about Quentin Coples, who I can’t see dropping to us. If he does, great. He’ll be a fantastic base end, and if needed, a fantastic 5-technique guy, too. I do think Ron Rivera can get work out of him, despite questions about motor.

But, Melvin Ingram is more what I was hoping for, in a lot of ways. Neither player is the ridiculously athletic outside rusher you might want top ten, the type guy that doesn’t make Greg Hardy completely obsolete. Either could stand up, and rush, just fine. Ingram seems to take better to actually playing OLB, and 3-4 teams do seem to have a keen interest in him – he could stand, but not lose anything to running. He’s beefy but not as stiff as Coples seems. You could play him at end, or stand him, and it’s all the same, which is what this hybrid defense is about. It doesn’t fit our greatest “need” – I think our problems at CB, DT are much greater – but at least at DT you could argue for stasis. My biggest concern isn’t talent or depth, it’s green players who might not overcome their issues – McClain’s gap integrity issues , or Fua’s lack of explosion. To me, there’s definitely room to make one of those guys our 4th best, rather than it be one of the street guys we picked up mid-year or Andre Neblett.
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