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Monday, February 18, 2013

First Round Good For Carolina

2013's first round pick is largely the best way for Carolina to add
talent for the season, and for the future. With back to back rookies of
the year (Cam Newton as offensive in '11, Luke Kuechly in '12), the
Panthers got two stars with long term ability, at a price they couldn't
have possibly afforded if they'd gone for that level player in free

Right now, the first round hasn't even settled out. You're still in
that period of analysis where any of 70 people could be first rounders.
There's no consensus #1, no top QB, and no top RB. Because of that,
most analysts have called this a poor draft up top. Some suggest the
difference between the 6 pick and the 26 pick isn't really that major,

But, that's not the case for Carolina. This is a draft rich in big
bodies, and toughness - two things the Panthers desperately require.
They're also, in general, high value picks.

Carolina doesn't really require an edge rusher right now - though with
Greg Hardy being a free agent in a year, you could make a case if you
really wanted by stashing a Barkevious Mingo on the team. It really
doesn't help you much at DT, and Greg Hardy's just not a guy I'd put
inside that much. He's good, and he's big enough, but he still makes
his living playing the OT. So I'm not going to worry too much at this
point, about

At DT, the biggest of needs comes into the heart of the first round's
most stocked position. You can potentially pick your flavor - if
massive do-everything guys Star Lotuleilei and Johnathan Hankins project
above Carolina's pick, there's still the super athletic, long legged
Sheldon Richardson (6'4, 295, Missouri) or the huge John Jenkins of
Georgia (6'2, 355). Scouts tend to diverge from there, but depending on
what happens, it's possible that NTs like Sharrif Floyd (6'2, 305,
Florida) or Jesse Williams (6'3, 320, Alabama and interestingly, with a
rugby past) or under tackles like Sylvester Williams (6'3, 305, UNC) or
Kawann Short (6'1, 305, Purdue) make sense.

As well, offensive line picks aren't exactly awe-inspiring at times,
but they're fundamental to good play in general. Want to impose your
will on a defense? No better way than to have good linemen. Carolina
has some needs on the right side, but who knows - maybe Jordan Gross
gets flipped over there. Maybe they luck out and find a right side guy
with rare athleticism. Or they find a guy who can be a rare
differencemaker at guard.

Starting with that guard and assuming that the team is OK with moving
forward with Byron Bell - you get Chance Warmack (6'4, 330, Alabama).
The idea of a guard is silly at 14 almost every time, and supposedly,
David Decastro was the best guard you'd see in a while (and he went in
the 20s, not even the highest taken guard in recent history). Warmack
appears to be better than that, in a similar offensive scheme. Warmack,
so far, has earned his place around the top 15, and doesn't appear to be
a worse lineman than his tackle counterparts. He just happens to play
guard, and apparently as good as anyone. A tenacious drive blocker, his
ability to reset the line of scrimmage is critical, and if you consider
the number of one-gap teams against zone blocking, moving a DT back
three yards means simply getting a shoulder on a couple of LBs to break
6-7 yards like it's found money.

At tackle, Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher both appear destined to go
ahead of the 14 pick, but so far, it appears there's plenty underheath
them. Primarily, DJ Fluker (6'6, 335, Alabama) started 36 games in 3
years at right tackle, and if he shows enough athleticism in workouts,
might be an ideal pick if Carolina wants a RT. Traditionally, teams go
for a LT that high, but it's tough to find much difference in locking
down one side at this point. Fluker, and Byron Bell inside if he were
able, would provide a very athletic but massive pair on that side.

For a more traditional LT, scouts again disagree, but it feels like the
top guy left would be Oklahoma's Lane Johnson (6'7, 305). His top
concern is adding weight, and the former TE/DE only has two years
starting (23 total games, one year RT, then one year LT). That
versatility can't hurt, but there's certainly a positive when you've
started more than two seasons.

Still, plenty of options, and it feels like it's a draft that continues
to be heavy on the heavies later in the draft (Barrett Jones of Alabama,
as a RG with a center's mentality, makes a lot of sense in round 2;
there are plenty of gap-shooting DTs, though it's hard to say who falls
to mid-2nd round).

So what's not a massively interesting draft for those expecting a
bunch of fantasy players, should remain interesting for those that are
ready to see their teams toughen up. Luckily for Carolina, that's
exactly what they need.
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