The draft is just under a month away - finally - and while Carolina is
still picking up from amongst the inexpensive free agents over the next
week or so, they're also gearing up for a very critical draft pick at
14. While they have to hit on all six picks to truly be on the road to
contention, the 14 pick is going to be their strongest chance of
improving their team.
So, a month out, let's handicap the odds of who'll make it to their
pick and whether they'll be picked. Yes, the odds are just a different
way to construct a list. No, I'm not a very good odds-maker.
4:1 - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The most mocked pick so far it seems. Richardson is a decent value,
and he's highly rated, but he's also not considered a potential top five
pick. He fits the team's need at DT, where they really don't have but
one starter; Richardson is more of a 3 technique DT, and that's what
they have in Dwan Edwards, but Edwards is aging. Richardson's a very
good run defender in his gap, and while he's not going to power through
every doubleteam, he's at his best when he uses his good first step to
get in a gap. In this defense, you can do that at NT for a while.
6:1 - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Unlikely to fall, but very likely to be picked if he did, Johnson is
the third of three elite OTs. It'd take a run on WR, DE, DT, and a 2nd
QB, and probably a guard or two. But since Johnson's the third OT, you
7:1 - Star Lotuleilei, DT, Utah
Lotuleilei was, at once, a top five lock. A heart issue has turned his
stock lower, but then has been cleared up. The issue isn't whether he'd
be picked, it's whether he falls. In my opinion, Star's the best
defender in this draft, but Sharrif Floyd might be picked ahead of him.
If Richardson also goes above Lotuleilei, he might fall.
10:1 - Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
It's hard to say whether they really would pick a guard at 14, but
Warmack's an elite guard. The harder part is whether Warmack would
easily move to RG, or whether they could use Amini Silatolu on the right
side, since they'd need to develop both players. Warmack will probably
be there, and regardless of where he lines up, he'd give Carolina more
reason to go for 4th and 1.
(I would put Jonathan Cooper at 14:1, because I find him a lesser
player than Warmack, because I find no real value
10:1 - Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU
Mingo's an odd pick, but he's the only likely outside rusher available.
Carolina has DE set like no other position, but both are bigger guys.
Mingo as a situational rusher seems silly, and I'm not in favor of it -
I prefer guys at this pick that would be on the field a lot more - but
Mingo does fit the 3-4, which would allow Carolina to drop both Greg
Hardy and Charles Johnson inside, where they could still provide power.
Mingo also becomes a key asset in nickel.
There's also a historical precedent lately, with the 49ers getting tons
of production situationally from Aldon Smith, and same for Seattle and
Bruce Irvin. The Giants never shied away from DL talent, either, for
perspective on Dave Gettleman. I'm not the biggest fan of the pick,
but if the team thinks he can be an elite rusher, it may be hard to pass
that up, and having Greg Hardy as a free agent doesn't help either.
11:1 - DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama
This is the top RT pick, and that could be useful. Fluker is also rated
behind three LTs (Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, Eric Fisher), any of which
would be preferable obviously. Fluker does fit Carolina's style, and
would be a good pick.
12:1 - WRs Cordarell Patterson, Tennessee or Tavon Austin, WVu
Austin's size is an issue, though maybe less than the raw nature of
Patterson's game. Patterson fits better, and there's no doubt that the
team wants someone for the future behind Steve Smith. But, a WR pick
that won't develop for years with young guys at the back of the bench
already, doesn't seem like a good fit for a staff on borrowed time or a
new GM who's utilitarian.
I'd also argue that it might be easier to worry about a "next Steve
Smith" after the first one's out of the way, which won't be for a few
12:1 - CBs Dee Milliner, Alabama, or Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
I'm grouping these together, since this would be under the idea one
would fall. Scouts still jockey for who'll go higher, and neither
appear top 5, but Rhodes is more likely to fall and he does have the
size Ron Rivera loves (and that he doesn't currently have at CB).
Carolina isn't "set" at CB, but they're set enough that they don't have
to make this pick.
17:1 - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
A talented safety, Carolina could still use Vaccaro. Everyone they
have is a plan B. But, I beleive the need is low, and Vaccaro isn't an
elite talent. He's very good, but I'm not yet convinced he's heads and
shoulders above what might be there at 45.
20:1 - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
A wildcard, and maybe I'm having flashbacks from the NY Jets Draft
Bloopers reel. Carolina did work well with 2 TE, but it would be tough
to really justify Eifert, even as talented as he is, that high or with
Greg Olsen still here for a number of years.
98:1 - Geno Smith, QB, WVu
I don't know if Smith makes it, but no.
100:1 - Matt Barkley
Not as good as a running quarterback. Is Barkley a Matt Cassell or a
Carson Palmer? His USC upbringing is clouding his overall mediocrity.
It's also just not a great year to be a pocket passer.