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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Look In Carolina's War Room?

Dave Gettleman's presser opens with a few disclaimers, and then they dig right into the stuff that everyone glosses over.  The staffing details.

But I find it interesting. And I especially find it interesting that coaches seem to have a more limited role than in the past.

The initial meetings involved Ron Rivera, Gettleman, college scouting director Don Gregory and his staff, and Brandon, assumedly Director of Football Operations Brandon Beane.

He then goes on to say that the coaches present players they've scouted, and that's added to the process. But there's less suggestion of whether the assistants will have much input overall, a mild departure from (at least the early parts of) Marty Hurney.

And yet, there's a suggestion that Beane IS involved.

Unknown up to Hurney's firing to almost everyone and that includes me, who knows more about front office stuff than is really necessary or useful, Beane had been painted as a guy Hurney liked and wanted to groom, but had essentially zero experience.

Beane has been mentioned exactly once since Gettleman fully settled in - that he and Team Administration director Rob Rogers had gone to an advanced statistics conference (the name slips me right now).  The idea that he's in on putting together the board is interesting, if nothing else.  It doesn't speak to his actual role with the team (Rogers would assumedly still be the contracts guy).

Gettleman goes on to eventually mention Pro Scouting guy Mark Koncz as putting together the needs list, and I'd imagine that he'll be in the room (honestly there's nothing that says the assistant coaches won't be either - at minimum you would expect coordinators).

Around The Draft: Carlos Hyde

Back on track, somewhat, for my Around The Draft In 60 Days nonsense.
Bringing me to an oddball pick for Carolina's purposes, Ohio State RB
Carlos Hyde.

Beware the chunky Big10 running backs, say chain-rattling ghosts of
drafts past. Hyde, who runs a 4.62, is no burner. He uses that 6', 230
lb frame about the way you might imagine - he's a north-south, one cut
runner. He's going to fight for the extra yard and is best with
defenders in front of him. He's that prototypical big back, a good fit
for Carolina's offense and a bad one for a lot of more progressive ones;
he's not a guy who has or will catch the ball a ton, I don't know how
great he is at pass protection. He's a brick; a battering ram. You
plug him in and give him 15 carries and you get your 60 yards out of
him. That's the equation.




I often wonder what Carolina's offense would look like with different
backs. Deangelo Williams does his best but looks without the burst of
his youth - we haven't seen Jonathan Stewart's best in a good while.
Mike Tolbert is the team's best back, and it doesn't make sense to use
him as more than a 15 snap player at RB because he's also the fullback.
Kenjon Barner is a RB who isn't designed to run, it seems. It's not
always that dire - I think a healthy Stewart makes a big difference -
and that freshens Williams up a bit.

So, you anticipate eventually having different backs, though the big
contracts are better served to deal with 2015, 2016. And a guy like
Hyde isn't going to pop out playmaking runs, by any means. You might
hope for a better playmaker, sure. I don't know if many of those even
exist - look at the average top 50 list, and you don't see many. Hyde,
the dynamic Tre Mason, and maybe Bishop Sankey are contenders, but not a
lock. There are maybe 6 RBs that will go in the top 100, and more of
them fit the mold of Hyde lately than the Chris Johnson type that you
might figure would thrive in an open offense.

Carolina might value the RB position more longterm than others - jokes
about our cap situation aside. But that cap situation is an albatross.
Concerns that the team was taking on too much money at RB were
completely correct- and now the league barely values backs at all.
Upside? If Carolina could get a cheap back or two eventually, they'd be
set, and dumping a big contract might not be as painful. So let them
undervalue it. Carolina would be happy to take a Hyde a round late.

That said, the internet might explode if this happened.

WR or OT? Who Knows?

In press conferences this week, Dave Gettleman ruled out much of
anything for a definitive WR v/s OT pick. Ron Rivera called up the idea
of an OT as more beneficial. And both agree that it could be neither
pick.

Gettleman hinted that, by need, he would want an OT, a WR, or a CB, and
that's not unrealistic. It's hard to find greater needs on this team.
Of course, the team won't go on a grocery list type buying spree,
they're adamant they're sticking to their board.

Suggesting there were "9 or 10" players at OT and WR combined that they
had a first round grade on (wouldn't it be great to know who?), Carolina
doesn't have the same philosophy that some internet outlets do (one of
the sources I trust has a total of 12).

You can assume that, in that list, you can assume definitively on four
OTs (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, and Zack Martin, in my
opinion). Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, are certainties at WR - they're
both close, and they're both high end. There's a dropoff to the next
group.

In my opinion that's where the variance can come from. And in talking
about a WR pick at 28, you can get ten different answers.

Traditional thought might compile Marquise Lee, Odell Beckham, and/or
Brandin Cooks in the first; any of the three could be gone, and
depending on who you talk to, any of the three might not be worthy. You
can pick holes in any of the three, where I've recently wanted to
devalue Lee a bit for a higher drop rate, Cooks's massive speed may not
be valuable as often if he's in the slot (where he might have to
actually run routes), leaving Beckham as, I guess, a defacto 3rd best,
but not top-15 level impactful - Beckham's return skills and abilities
seem like a great situation to be a #2 receiver.


Other contenders at 28 fill up the second round - Kelvin Benjamin,
Jordan Matthews, Donte Moncrief, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson have all
been listed as first round guys. Cody Latimer is a late-riser who some
suggest carries a first round grade. So after that quartet, you could
have up to 9 other players that carry, in my mind, a second round grade,
and I wouldn't be completely shocked to see any in the top 25-35.

It'a s deep WR draft, but, come on. That's a logjam. So, reading the
tea leaves, I don't know. I don't see a WR there that would fall to 28
that is hands-down better than the next. Beckham won't fall, Lee is
inefficient, Cooks might not survive at split end if he's a deep guy who
can't beat the jam; Benjamin is ridiculously slow and doesn't have the
route skill yet to contribute shorter.

I find Matthews to have a very well rounded profile. But he's not rated
high, in part because some find his top-end speed lacking and his
ceiling isn't much higher than his floor (which seems picky). I'd be
more than happy with Matthews as a player, compared to most of these
players, but he's not a 28th overall prospect in consensus. Adams and
Robinson follow that same situation - they're all very productive, good
sized players who aren't that athletic but play the position well.

Moncrief, in comparison, is a very high ceiling prospect who could have
the talent top be the 3rd or 4th best player, if you have a lot of
patience. He has both the size and the speed, but he's gotta learn how
to use that size and how to be consistent in essentially every phase.
So taking him means knowing he won't contribute this year.

Which was one of Ron Rivera's arguments. First round receivers don't
guarantee you much in year 1. OTs might give you 1000 snaps and upgrade
you immediately every snap.

A kid like Benjamin, he might make the field 300-500 snaps at most,
doing things inefficiently compared to the vets on the field. If he
provides you an upgrade, it's in a few snaps a game, not 60. I love the
idea of a massive target like Benjamin running the Bang-8, like a
king-sized Michael Irvin, but I don't know that he can stand up to the
other things you expect

Now, back to OT. Cyrus Kouandijo and Morgan Moses have typically been
the next guys, either of which have varied from 25-40. Depending on the
listing, both have fallen at times (NFL.com has Moses as the 11th best
tackle? takedown artist Nolan Nawrocki calls him a "developmental
prospect"). Joel Bitonio might be a riser, but he's not a top 30
prospect.

Kouandijo has been somewhat the flashing neon sign of this draft. I
don't at all compare him to Star Lotulelei in ability or draft rating,
but there are some similarities - both were guys I was very aware of as
a blue chip type prospect in the draft the year before they were taken;
both have elite size and, when used, ability; and both appear to be
falling over what might end up as a misconception over their health.

And again, who knows. It could be anyone. It could be, somehow, a DT.
It could be a running back - you never really know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Around The Draft: Various OTs

Once again, I'm doing 60 prospects in 60 days, and as I noted earlier today, I'm way behind thanks to ...life.

But, as my QB post moments ago, I want to canvas some later OL.  From a need standpoint, the team can use a backup C, they have severe uncertainty about their guard health, and depending on where some pieces fit, one starting OT and one backup OT.  So, they can use pretty much any backup OL.

*C Bryan Stork is about what you'd hope for at the end of 4 or 5.  He's started a ridiculous amount of games at Florida State (40, 6 of which were at swing guard). He's fairly athletic, and he's strong.  But he's not thick in the lower end, so he's not as good at drive blocking, so he relies on his technique and quickness.  Guys like that are valuable, they're just not blue chip.  Stork seems like that type guy - more Hangartner than Kalil, and you need both.

*USC OT Kevin Graf is an intriguing RT prospect with 38 games started, who has a great first step and solid athleticism.  He showed a lot of skill on tape, he plays with urgency and attitude.  He plays well on the second level and plays the angles of the running game well.  He doesn't play exceptionally well on an island and against speed rushers, but that's where I think Carolina can help.  Since the 2013 tackles spent a lot of time playing a drop technique that has them retreating instead of fanning a defender, Graf's abilities could be serviceable as a backup.  You attack the defender a few yards back instead of forcing him a few yards out.  I don't know if Graf can play G at 6'6, and I don't know if he has the stout haunches you might like in a RG, but he's an intriguing prospect.

*G Kadeem Edwards of Tennessee State could be the next small-school guard Carolina throws out there - having drafted one in the top four rounds of the last two drafts.  Edwards might be a 4th-5th type player, but he has ideal size, strength, and above average arms. He has to improve his consistency and technique, but (having never met or even watched him much) I'm reading he's motivated and coachable.

*Belhaven OT Matt Hall is intriguing.  He was a high recruit who's struggled in circumstance (some of his own doing - he got a DUI), and spent time at Arkansas and Ole Miss.  6'8, 320, he's strong (225x32 in bench).  He's another player you'd have to project into being a good techician, right now he struggles to stay low.


So there's a quartet of later linemen.  Carolina should make at least one of these type picks in every draft, if for no other reason to get that occasional gem.

Hardy Contract: Reading Tea Leaves

Greg Hardy has been given a $1.3 million advance on his 2014 salary.

I hate to get spooked on the potential meaning, but does this make a
longterm contract this year unlikely?

Consider - Hardy signing his franchise tender means he went from having
a placeholder that guaranteed Carolina his rights, to a one year
contract for that value. You can negotiate a long term deal, but you
can only touch a contract once a year. You can't renegotiate more than
once.

I don't know if franchise amounts allow for advances, but if the method
they used was to take 10% of his salary and turn it into signing bonus,
they've used up that renegotiation. Which makes a longterm contract
impossible to deal with this year.

Hopefully, that's not the case. Now, I don't suggest that I think that
keeping Hardy longterm is the only way that Carolina can succeed, but
I'm not sure if kicking the ball back a year is the best way to go,
either - paying him this much with one excellent year and not much else,
it's risky. Carolina doesn't have a lot of money to risk. Many suggest
that a long-term deal on Hardy means doom for Charles Johnson, and I
definitely don't want that - there's not a ton of room to play with, and
Johnson isn't a star in traditional terms, but hes

And, hopefully I'm wrong. I don't know that this is the case - if
there's anything in the new CBA, perhaps, that makes this advance a
possibility. First I'd hear of it, though. If there's not a limit to
negotiations, Carolina has until July 15 to continue negotiations. A
longterm deal puts more on the future cap but provides security and
would assumedly lower the current cost of having Hardy on roster.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Around The Draft: Various QBs

The draft should've happened already.  By this time three years ago, Cam Newton was already a Panther.  This throwing it back two weeks is nutty.

And, I'm going on six days without a post due to some family tragedy.

So, I'm throwing a bunch of guys out today in hopes of catching up.   I haven't talked QBs, and that's all everyone is - let me start right here and say that I'd be very surprised if Carolina drafted anyone.  The Joe Webb thing is already a throw-away situation, in my opinion.  The team wants and, in my opinion, needs Derek Anderson.  With that defense, and with the attention to the running game, Newton's attributes running are a positive, but they need a good QB more than a running one if Newton is out of the game for whatever reason.   Anderson's abilities in the passing game and experience make him a good change-up.  He's suited, possibly, to that backup role a bit more, but has fringe starter talent.

Still, if you were to push the idea of a long-term backup with wheels, you might throw a later pick at the spot.  This is where, you might argue, I'm deviating from the 25-to-85-ish theme (I'm sure plenty of those prospects are outside the top 90 to other eyes).  These players are lower players.

But Carolina can't afford to throw a top 90 pick at a spot that hopefully would never play. And trying to find a similar skill set to Newton's would be more expensive than that - finding a player that has his size/speed characteristics, much less with quarterback skill, isn't always that easy.

So, who's intriguing?

*Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech -
the thing that jumps out at you is his size.  Legitimately a little taller and thicker than Newton, he shares a number of attributes.  They're both quick for that size, they both have the broad shoulders and heft that a lot of running QBs clearly lack, which would assumedly create a bit more durability for running.  They're both long-legged striders who don't look fast but still get upfield deceptively fast (Thomas ran a similar 40 at 4.61). Both can slip around in the pocket but both can stand in and take the hit.  Both have a ton of arm.

Now, Thomas is remarkably inconsistent.  Even in all-star practices this offseason, Thomas was everywhere - great, awful.  Newton had a better final year, and showed a lot more promise.  The mechanics are just not there sometimes.  He gets his body around more than early Newton but the long leg provides similar issues - you're not going to be throwing from on top of that left leg so the launch point is more variable.  Still sounds like Cam, but it's worse than Newton was. He did have some significant struggles in the last two years, too.

I have him around the 5th.  If the spread was wildfire right now, he'd be higher, but not necessarily deservedly.  He's a project, but I think he could be good in a system that fits him. Like Newton, he can hit a lot of throws that most of these kids can't.

*Connor Shaw, South Carolina -
The opposite of the above, Shaw is 6'0.  That does provide some challenges, both as a runner and passer.  He's compact at 210, so he at least has a modest amont of bulk, but he's certainly smaller.  You can't stand tall in the pocket if you're simply not tall.   Then again, if Shaw can get reps and learn to do the pocket wandering that Drew Brees does, great.  And Russell Wilson isn't hampered by it.  But, Shaw's flaw could be his undoing as a starter, and he's not as special as the above two guys in this paragraph, nor as special as the Thomas/Newton type players.   Which makes him available late, when his tape says he's a good starter.

Shaw is a consistent player with an average arm, the requisite toughness and leadership ability and all that. He's a player that could play above his rating because so much of the negative is in measurables. But it's so hard to overlook that.

*Tajh Boyd, Clemson -
There are guys like this out there, just without the name.  Boyd played almost exclusively in shotgun, had mostly easy throws, and wasn't actually asked to do that much - while also being somewhat carried by better players and a good team.  Boyd's height is somewhat of an issue, and he's not even that fast.  He has a slow windup on his throws.

But he's obviously an elusive player who has a knack for playmaking in both phases, a spark guy.  If you can overlook the big issues, and strip the mistakes, you never know.


I don't know if the team will look for a guy here.  I wouldn't.  Honestly, going into year 4 of Newton, without a longterm deal and a young guy behind him, makes Newton look disposable and unwanted - at least that's the press narrative.

But, Thomas is clearly the guy who fits, the type of guy who you'd have to throw time into and hope it pans out.  Since it's now such a 2-QB roster league, I don't know if Carolina has room for this type of guy, though.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Around The Draft: Scott Crichton

60 prospects, 60 days, Around the Draft in 60 days (again, I got busy at
80). I'm a couple of days behind, and so I'm grinding out an extra now
and again.

Scott Crichton is a big end in the mold of Charles Johnson (you might
see where I'm going with that, unfortunately). 6'3, 273, and not
incredibly fast (4.84), but with decent closing speed and exceptional
short speed (a top 4.29 shuttle - consider WR Kelvin Benjamin, albeit a
massive receiver, ran a 4.39 short shuttle). I'll get past his speed
soon, but he has a good first step. He's not going to beat you across
the edge all the time, but it's enough that you still have to set wide
around him. He doesn't have that rare body bend that lets him get ideal
leverage on the outside.

He plays with power but I don't know that he has enough moves to make
use of his size yet. With his size and motor, he's the type that should
be able to square up on a tackle and have a range of things to use to
get pressure, but so far, he's just an outside rush guy.

He plays the run well, and depending on who you ask, he'll get down the
line fast; he gets negative marks at times for contain discipline.

A redshirt junior, Crichton started three years, being productive - with
22.5 sacks and 10FF. He's a good-story guy who supposedly had to leave
school to support his family (parents are Western Samoan immigrants; mom
works two jobs, dad works one despite having one leg). Hard worker who
came to school small and worked hard to get bigger.


Obviously, Carolina has Johnson and Greg Hardy. A pick at end supposes
that Carolina either wants to put money into Hardy and eventually phase
out Johnson, or that they don't want to pay Hardy longterm. This pick,
from a need standpoint, is more Charles Johnson - a high-strip player
who needs to get the technique down and use his power, and get the run
stopped as well. If the team dropped Hardy eventually, you'd want a
more athletic, even smaller guy. Demarcus Lawrence type guy. But
Lawrence doesn't have that speed you want in a 250-260 lb guy, and there
are honestly more big ends in this draft's middle.

I don't want Johnson to go - I'd definitely prefer the two sides work
out something if Hardy did stay, to ensure that they can keep that
intact. Both sides giving up just a little (Johnson's on year 4 of 6,
and since he was such a young draftee, he's got a high experience to age
ratio along with productivity). But, if you were to pinpoint a contract
to phase out, it could be Johnson's.

Around The Draft, Phillip Gaines

I'm zipping through a few words on roughly 60 prospects in the two
months leading up to the '14 draft, concentrating on needs while knowing
the team will at least sell the Best Player philosophy, if not always
sticking to it.

Phillip Gaines - 6'0, 190. Gaines isn't a guy I've focused on much, but
here he is, running up the draft boards. He has a legitimately big
league skill set despite playing at small-school Rice (Conference USA).
His 4.38 (apparently as low as 4.31) 40 time belies his athleticism but
he's also very quick in the change of direction drills. He already
shows big-league skill, too. He's low in yards per route run, was only
targeted 40 times last year and only gave up 13 catches.

He has good technique, and fights for the ball in the air. He needs to
do a little better with route recognition, when it comes to going after
the ball - which would give him more shots at picking the ball off, but
he's also the type that isn't going to let you get open much. It
appears he needs to improve on his height in his backpedal and he wasn't
asked to do it much - so he ends up tall and might struggle to get in
some schemes.

Gaines works at tackling, and while he needs to clean up a bit, he's

Gaines is a very intriguing player with good instincts. He looks like,
in the right scheme, a guy who could become a shutdown corner, the type
you would alter your scheme to accomodate. He's got the instinct to
jump a route and the speed to recover.

The concern, reading his past, is staying on the field, with unrelated
injuries that have held him out for chunks of his career (all of '11,
part of '09), but there's nothing that really says he should stay hurt.
He should pack on some weight, too.

I think Gaines is a riser. I'd love to have him in the 2nd, but he's as
intriguing as Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller with a higher upside than
either.

The need here is obvious, Carolina needs another corner and the
defensive backfield still has no real longterm solution. Yes, the
safeties are signed for two years. Antoine Cason - to me, as good or
better than the other acquisitions, Roman Harper and Thomas Decoud - is
a one year, and there's no real talent to press Melvin White at the
other spot. There's no one to really take the nickel spot that's going
to make a difference on 3rd down. And the truth is, Carolina hasn't
put much talent back there.

I don't see Gaines here - he'll go higher because of his athleticism and
skill set than Carolina would be able to afford to spend. But Carolina
needs to invest a bit here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Around The Draft, Bashaud Breeland

CB Bashaud Breeland is the next in 60 within 60 (etc, etc).

The Clemson underclassman has the generic measurables (5'11, 200), a good vertical and shows athleticism on tape. So far, the concern has been a 4.62 40, which in corners essentially only means closing speed and deep speed.

He has the physicality to throw guys off their routes, which has masked or re-routed the speed concern, but no one's really freaking out about the 4.62.  Breeland hasn't shown it as a weakness.  Could make him fall, but not for the metrics-based crowd.

He's physical, but he plays better against non-physical guys (getting muscled v/s FSU). He's an active, aggressive guy with the ball in the air, and with the ball on the ground - he's a good tackler.  So hopefully the aggressive against aggressive receivers thing can be cleaned up.

He reminds me a lot of Josh Norman, but with better pedigree and the bit of stiffness that goes away with a major school prospect (at least in this case).   Relatedly, I don't know if Norman's biggest issue, freelancing, is necessarily an issue if you consider Breeland was a top performer on a Brent Venables defense.

So, if you can overlook the 4.62, and hope he can cleanly bang with a Vincent Jackson, I think in this case you get a corner who can play the ball, play the run, and can play well blitzing.  I don't have a good feel for him in the slot, the current need, however.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Around The Draft: Marcus Martin

60 prospects in 60 days (around the draft in 60 days - because I procrastinated at 80, I guess).  36 prospects down, by my count. 37 here in a minute, actually, but still.  That puts me at 6 behind, but that's for another day. For today, one.

I've yet to do a center, and while there's no realistic need for me to do a FB or a third-phase specialist like a kicker or snapper, center could be in play with a Best Player Available type approach. Not to unseat Ryan Kalil - being the only guaranteed guy longterm, I feel like they'd do what it takes to keep Ryan.  He'll be an interesting case study in the Dave Gettleman voidable years situation - Kalil's current contract voids in '16, after which he'll be 32.  After '15, his signing bonus proration is gone, that leaves the team with a lower cap hit for '16 and potentially the ability to re-up around the void.

Or not, he could just be toast like the other voidable guys.

At any rate, Martin.  Another USC center.  Carolina held two last year, Kalil and the now-retired Jeff Byers. Martin doesn't fall far off Kalil's mark, as a powerful and athletic interior offensive lineman. He has a mean streak, though it gets too aggressive (attempts to pancake where he could just control, so he sometimes fails).  He does it all well, understands the game.  He has guard experience, which is where he'd have to start out in Carolina and eventually take over for Kalil.

He has to become more technically sound, and he has to beat that knockout punch nonsense out of his game or get better at it.  The need-based reasoning?  Martin fulfills a way to get out of an expensive contract eventually, tightens up a short term weakness (none of the RG are good, and Amini Silatolu at LG is growing an injury history).  Best case scenario?  You end up so good at RG that you can have more of them at tackle.

It's a long shot, and I don't want the team to cycle away Kalil.  But, it's an option.  And in a world where you might be paying Cam Newton $20 million, Luke Kuechly at least $12 million, and same for Greg Hardy, a $10 million center is tough to swallow.   You can keep the strength strong at a cheaper price.

Again, not the way I'd go, but it makes sense.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Around The Draft: EJ Gaines

I'm struggling through a personal loss, so I took a day off on my 60 prospects/60 days thing.

At any rate, we have EJ Gaines.  Missouri CB, a very average 5'10, 190.  A lot of the prospects so far at CB have been the tall, lanky type or the smaller, nickelback type - and outside of the third round duo of McGill/Jean-Baptiste, the average ranking based on the internet suggests that the higher you go, the taller you are.  

Gaines is an average build guy, but still rated lower.  He isn't the tall, lanky corner that fits the outside defender narrative for Carolina. But, he fits the slot corner narrative, and does have the ability and athleticism to fit downfield, where his hips seem to turn well for him from backpedal.  He's played both in press and off-man, so he should be able to handle the slot or outside zone.

He does also fit in another form - he is a good tackler and blitzer, even to go as far as to say that he's the type of guy who can avoid blockers well enough to be a threat to come at the QB.   He's the sort that doesn't turn enough of his ball opportunities into INTs (the prototypical "that's why he plays defense" type of comment), and has to overcome a small injury history.

Carolina needs basically this one piece, based on whether the odd idea of having Charles Godfrey as the nickel pays any dividends (but, even still, they could use this piece).  Gaines could go late 3rd, or 4th, but fits the football player playing corner type player that Ron Rivera has sought.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Best Player, Or Greatest Need?

We've heard over and over again that the Panthers are locked into their
Best Player Available philosophy.

It seems they've prepared for that, excepting offensive tackle - where
they say they could make do with existing resources, somehow. They've
picked up enough inexpensive veteran talent that they can go with,
theoretically, almost any pick.

The team and media outlets use last year's draft as an example of that
philosophy, and so far they've used the same overall ideals in free
agency. Pick up good, but maybe undervalued, bodies to fill holes. So
far, so good.


But is what they're doing really BPA, or is it a ruse? BPA is a good
way of throwing other teams off your trail, too. It would be obvious to
the average observer that the team needs an OT, and a WR, and that it'd
be easy to get directly in front of Carolina to get the one you want.
Since obviously no one has access to Carolina's board at the time of a
pick other than Carolina, you can't say they didn't pick the best
player.

So to start off, I'd like to analyze the 2013 draft under BPA and
non-BPA filters.

1st round - Star Lotulelei, DT - in my mind, this player was both.
Clearly a massive need, Lotulelei was also the best defensive lineman in
the draft (to me, anyway). This is where Carolina got extremely lucky;
if OT Luke Joeckel fell, same thing. I think you have to take that
player (and in my mind, yes, Joeckel was the best OT in the draft; I
don't remember comparing quality between he and Lotulelei but I'd say
both are at the top of the board). But if one of the ends fell? I
don't know if I had confidence in any of the three (Dion Jordan, Ezekiel
Ansah, and Barkevious Mingo went out of order and none of them I really
had ahead of 14). I wouldn't have picked any, but traditional logic
might've made one of them the BPA.

2nd round - Kawann Short, DT - rated near our 44 pick, Short is where
Carolina started arguing BPA. Short was, in my mind (and unless I
missed something significant, traditional internet logic) a good value,
but it's not like there was a mid-first grade on Short. The fit was
good, and given some concerns about motor, adding Short to a DL that
wouldn't ask too much of him would have value. But a lot of that's not
considered in BPA.

*It's hard to argue for other picks. I really liked Larry Warford at
guard, and his 2013 performance bears that out as an ideal pick for
Carolina, where he'd have locked down RG instead of seeing the team go
through a short dozen of them. Robert Alford at CB would've made a
difference, too.

3rd round - forefeited in trade. Would've been a great data point to
add, with Keenan Allen still on the board (oof) and the team's
connections to him; Tyrann Mathieu would've been interesting, though a
fair amount of his success is owed to where he went, too. Warford
would've been ideal, but it's essentially inconceivable to hope that an
already-traded pick would have someone like that fall to it. That sort
of wishing is double-useless.

4th round - Edmund Kugbila, G - it's hard to call this BPA. It's easy
to call it a need, where the team really needed any shot at improving
its OL along with depth. I was hoping for the versatile Barrett Jones
here, though injury could've pushed him down. Warl Watford was a
similar small-school G that was a little more powerful. But, Kugbila
has yet to really show what he can do, so I won't pile on.

5th round - AJ Klein, LB - you can call this BPA, but as much because it
wasn't a need. Klein might've been rated higher than this, but it's
hard to know. I didn't pay any attention to him. Obviously the pick
worked out, but you could argue that the team had two highly paid vet LB
to go around a high first round pick, and paid three more veterans as
depth; Klein's "need" provides cap relief and a future at the position
that isn't year-to-year special teamers. This pick has obviously
worked out, undoubtedly, but it's also a space where you could argue
either BPA or need.

6th round - Kenjon Barner, RB - I don't know. Yes, maybe BPA. But, in a
way, need. Yes, Carolina has tons of RB, but not a quick one, not one
that they'd have return kicks. With Ted Ginn on a one year deal and all
the other returners in the WR logjam, you could argue the team had a
value in that. Ron Rivera valued a scatback type player and has evoked
the Darren Sproles image enough. You could argue need. You could
argue the need by 2014 or 2015 to have a younger, but experienced, RB on
staff to take over for a high contract.

You could also argue, not BPA. Barner comes from a wide open offense,
and you could argue Carolina had been that once. But you knew with Mike
Shula at the helm and a top defense, that it wouldn't be all that open -
BPA doesn't account for offensive fit, or how conservative it is, unless
all that's figured into the draft grade.

There's no doubt that Andre Ellington would've been a smarter choice in
hindsight, and possibly at the time, too. So I can't tell the Panthers
what their board looks like, but it feels like the BPA part fails
because I disagree that Barner was the BPA. Who knows, maybe they'll
switch him to receiver and that will work, but right now he doesn't look
like a player that can run strong on a team that has nothing but power
runners and runs power.





The end result is, like the "Dave Gettleman only drafts Seniors" thing,
it's a limited amount of data points. I'm certain that the Panthers
have to draft a junior or two, that there's no aversion to that ideal,
and that if they haven't already, they'll end up drafting for need at
some point.

Around The Draft: Keith McGill

I'm still struggling through 60 prospects in 60 days, inevitably a few
spots behind target but still grinding it out. Today's 25 to 85 (ish)
prospect is Utah CB Keith McGill. Carolina's suddenly quite short on
Utah alumni after the hole that Steve Smith and Jordan Gross both leave
behind, both holes I believe Carolina has yet to fully address in
various forms. Like Smith, McGill went to Utah via a Los Angles area
JuCo, so he has two years major college experience (and a redshirt).

McGill, of course, can't help you there. But he fits another, obvious
hole, the ongoing issues at cornerback.

McGill's an ideal Ron Rivera cornerback - with good enough speed (4.51),
but exceptional considering the length (6'3, 211) and ranginess that
Rivera (and most everyone really) covets. He uses that size well in
coverage, boxing out and at times baiting the underneath throw. His
hands are just good, and I don't know if he's a true ballhawk, but he's
a tough downfield defender who's natural in coverage. McGill does have
safety experience, playing one of his two years at free safety.

Again, paralleling Smith's situation, there's an injury concern while at
Utah. It's only one issue, but it cost him half of 2011 and all of 2012
with a shoulder injury. Like Smith's collarbone issue, I don't think
it's a concern longterm, but a few outside sources suggest he's gotta
pass physicals/show durability.

I don't know if it's related, but for a safety-sized corner, McGill
doesn't tackle quite as hard or hit as hard as you might hope, and he'll
have to beat blocks better/with more enthusiasm in the pro game.


The parallels to Smith are anecdotal. Ignore them if you want -
they're two completely different players overall, they just went down
the same paths. McGill could use a small amount more of Smith's fire
(if properly used, couldn't we all?) but I think he's an ideal fit in
Carolina. The issue is application. Antoine Cason is an outside
receiver. I can't imagine Melvin White, even though I expect some
upgrade in play going into year two, suddenly becoming less stiff. They
could throw him into the slot, but I don't know. They have Josh Thomas,
but he's somewhat of a step down.

So in the case that McGill is the choice - currently that value is
mid-3rd, give or take, and like the CB I wanted in '12, Trumaine
Johnson, I think that McGill could bubble up to the 2nd-
it's to where it likely upgrades on White, competing at the very least,
but the team would remain deficient at the 3rd CB spot since all three
guys are better suited to the outside role.

Potentially still worth it - the Best Player Available philosophy
doesn't seem to concern itself with what type of corner or receiver
you're in greater need of, anymore than it's worried about whether you
need a corner or receiver more. In the end, long term with Cason being
on a one year deal (I think Carolina will have wished he was on a 2-3
year deal by the end of the year, personally), this type pick still
makes a lot of sense. But with the Seahawks' corners fitting McGill's
profile, copycat teams will probably pluck him early.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Around The Draft: Ha-ha Clinton-Dix

Headlining the 2014 defensive back all-name team is Ha-Ha Clinton Dix,
given name Ha'Sean (not the point, but clearly Louchiez Purifoy and
Darqueze Dennard are on that not-real team too). He's the first truly
ridiculously named player I'll review for my Around The Draft in 60 Days
feature.

While he sounds like part of the famous all-star team on Key & Peele,
Clinton-Dix is an actual player. A top recruit out of Florida, he was a
starter for the National Champion 2012 team in Alabama and again in '13.
The 6'1, 210 lb free safety provides all the necessary ability, and
while he lacks as much top end speed, that's not as critical (4.58 at
combine) when added to his top shuttle times. He has quick change of
direction skill, good instincts and diagnostic ability to get to the
ball and make things happen there.

He comes out of an obviously talented, well coached team. He's used to
having elite talent around him, and he's used to being able to sit back
and diagnose. He's a football player, not just a cover guy. He fills
quickly, and securely, in the run game and hits hard.

He does have the ability to play the slot receiver, and while that's not
necessarily the reason you get him, if you did, you might hold off on a
corner for slot ability. It's rare, but it happens (Mike Minter started
out in the nickel).

That said, I like Calvin Pryor a little more. Both are rated in the
20-30 range by most internet outlets, with Clinton-Dix being more likely
to be rated higher. But Pryor's measurables are a little better, the
aggressiveness and football player mentality are still there, and I feel
like there's a little more potential in coverage ability.

Since Carolina has signed Thomas DeCoud, the need for a high pick at FS
is gone. This would be a Best Player Available type situation and since
possibly both will be there, I don't know that either will be BPA. The
draftnik in me would want a sleeper guy like Lonnie Ballentine of
Memphis to play the project role (at 6'3, 218, Ballentine ran a 4.40 40
and has a ton of size, has the length and ranginess Ron Rivera likes)
but he isn't a very polished or instinctive player. But, in the 5th -
7th, that's what this team needs from a backup standpoint, the current
"need".

They also have to figure out what to do with Charles Godfrey. So, from
a grocery list perspective, Clinton-Dix is not a top choice. If there
were a need, I think Pryor is a bit more explosive.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Around The Draft; Dri Archer

60 prospects, 60 days.

Today's takes a turn with an offensive weapon, tweener, whatever you want to call him.

Dri Archer's a pocket rocket.

I liked Dexter McCluster coming out but I wasn't sure if he'd stay a back (and he didn't).  Then again, I saw the same thing out of another massively fast, thin playmaker - Chris Johnson.  Johnson hit 2000 yards as a back, though I still have no clue how.  His lack of enough power is now evident, but for a few years he was tough to track down.

Archer falls in that mold, and while doing those comparisons may do him a disservice, there's no doubt that he's also much smaller (5'8, I guess, but maybe less - and 173 lbs), that his size at Kent State [it's remarkably distasteful to call him the Kent State Bullet but, I mean, let's face it no one will even get that and it's well before my time] isn't NFL size, and that he'll be better off being taught upfield routes than trying to follow guards twice his size.  He had toughness running in the box, and I'm not going to take rushing the football off the table.  But it feels like WR is his home eventually.

He does have experience moving around - not just at RB, but slot WR, and both return spots.  He's almost unlimited potential, the way Devin Hester was almost worth listing as a returner instead of having a position; he definitely impacts the game enough to get him involved.

I watched the RB workouts at combine, my first year of being able to really watch combine, and Archer stood out in workouts.  Of course he would.  I didn't catch that little man put up 225 x 20 on the bench - a significant amount of weight for his size and an indicator he's not the typical track guy.

Naming a number of NFL vets isn't to call where Archer is talent-wise.  His leading attribute is his speed, he's not as versatile as the above players yet and he's certainly not a young Darren Sproles, either.  Ron Rivera likes that Sproles type guy, the flavor you can't scheme.

The downside?  Now that Carolina has one Sproles in Kenjon Barner, another in Archer seems silly.  And that first Sproles barely played - it's almost an afterthought that there's no reason for him to play in a vanilla scheme that predicates holding the ball as much as it does big plays.  Rob Chudzinski would make something interesting out of these two kids, though he also wasted a fair two years of Deangelo Williams' career on a dizzying array of two-yard shotgun draws over and over and over again on first down, waiting for that one 70 yard changeup every three weeks.

Mike Shula?  I don't know if he has room for this guy as a back.  And if Tiquan Underwood is "the deep guy", does the team need two?  Cam Newton barely gets a deep ball now and again.

So, the question becomes, to a point, is Archer the return man who can turn around a game?  That's a pretty big possibility.   His stop/start ability matched with acceleration you only find in a 4.2 type player, along with the toughness of a larger player in the open field, means he's a guy with this skill set:
*the 4.2 40
*RB toughness and elusiveness
*a punt returner's mentality catching, returning, or rushing the football

I think that's the sort of thing you want returning your punts. That job, of course, is currently open, likely to go to the generic version of Darren Sproles currently employed by Carolina, unless that changes.

Now, a 3rd, or 4th possibly since Al Davis isn't here to draft all the sub 4.3 guys until they're gone, is a lot to give to a team that has Hog Molly needs. And they do.   But best player is best player.  By 3, or 4, if you were to miss that part of Ted Ginn enough to upgrade on that?  Archer might be your man.  What he turns into after, that's hard to say, but by 2015, you're just finding ways to get him on the field.

(those of you young enough, I think I deserve a nod for not writing this full of Archer references - Laaaanaaaa!)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Around The Draft: Michael Schofield, Matt Patchan

I'm attempting to knock out 60 prospects in the 60 days before the
draft, out of players that could be picked between the late first and
late third round picks Carolina posesses. I apparently took a weekend
break from these, so I might knock out a few today.

Today's prospects? Michael Schofield, of Michigan, and Matt Patchan,
Boston College. Both are lighter players, and both come in on the late
3rd-mid 4th round, so I'll compare and contrast the two to Carolina's
needs.

Schofield played in the shadow of his high first round teammate, Taylor
Lewan, next to him for a year at LG, and across from him at RT for 26
games. Schofield played some snaps at LT with Lewan hurt, but most of
his time was at RT. His ability to play LT is hard to say - he has the
height/length for it, a wide base, and he seems to have good feet on
tape. But some of the reports I read disagree - they say his feet are
heavy, and that he's better at guard. I would worry, in the wrong
scheme, if he could get leverage at guard with his height.

He has good power, can anchor, so he has that going for him at any
position. He looks aware of rush schemes and doesn't get fooled, so he
has that at any position. he seems to struggle with where he puts his
hands, so he could attract too many holding calls. But, he has the
versatility to be thrown in a lot of places, so if you need depth, he
might be that sort of overachieving lineman that just finds his way on
the field. So far, that's how it's gone for him.



Patchan (6'6, 302) fits the part with tons of athleticism and good
technique. ON the field he's reliable - has good feet, enough
toughness. But he can't stay on the field consistently - he's torn an
ACL, he's torn a pectoral, and he's fractured his wrist, each of which
ended his year. None of them are related, but you have to wonder on
durability.

He did have a good 2013 after transferring to BC from Florida, and he
stayed healthy that year, so he's the sort of guy who's on the upswing
because of it. A top prep prospect, he took six years to fully gain his
potential, and it's more on those five than the last one that's holding
him back. Because of that, he's a guy who could have second round
talent, but is a complete unknown and might end up a 5th rounder if
people get spooked.

The team can use either or both. Both players have their issues, but
could provide good value once their names are called.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Around The Draft: Bruce Ellington, Robert Herron

Today's installment of Around The Draft comes with a pair of similar receivers - Bruce Ellington and Robert Herron.  This pair of diminutive receivers pack a punch for their size, and might get overlooked for it, but both have a significant amount of talent.



Ellington has some Steve Smith in him.  Small (5'9, 297) but plays big, built bigger than his height (wingspan, chest, hands), has plenty of speed, and a little bit of a wildcard.  Ellington didn't have to do everything at South Carolina, he had a limited route tree and had some freedom to freelance, so that's a Ricky Proehl situation.  This offense would give him some room to make some reads, but it also requires a good route runner.  Despite that speed, he doesn't have that extra burst, that top gear so to speak, you hope for from a burner, so he's gotta get those routes better.

Ellington also has just a bit of Julius Peppers in his history - he played basketball, so you have that 'focus' question to whether he'd really improve working on just football, or whether the drive is there to do it.  Have no clue on that one, I'm not going to judge him for being a two sport college star.



Herron (5'9, 193) played for small school Wyoming, but came up big against good competition.  He's tough, a better blocker than Ellington, but shares the open-offense curse of getting a lot of his yards on the drags, screens, and the go.  His routes seem a little better, but again this might be a limited situation. I don't know that he can or can't, he just hasn't been asked to do it.

He advances the ball like a running back, and has experience there; he can provide a RB like burst and elusiveness.  The league really hasn't found a lot of need for a Percy Harvin type player, and it took a while for Brian Schottenheimer to figure out what to do with a far superior Tavon Austin.

Both players have a lack of height, enough speed to make things happen, and their tape has limitations to how it can be applied as a pro.  I like the ideal of either guy in Carolina, but it's to where I don't know if either would make it on the field much.  Neither are great return specialists, and routes being a potential concern, it will be tough to get off the bench if you're not as efficient as a lot of the vets.

Secondary Improvement

You'll see argument regarding the wide receiver situation and whether or not Carolina is better off.

You'll see it for months at minimum - I'm convinced if Carolina pulled off a (quite highly improbable and inadvisable) trade for Sammy Watkins, you may still see that argument.

But, looking back at the other year-to-year situation-  the defensive secondary - and I don't see that argument.  I don't know if it's just uninteresting, but it had no less room to grow.

This time last year, Carolina cast a wide net, bringing back Captain Munnerlyn to go with new signings DJ Moore Drayton Florence, Mike Mitchell, among others.   I believe that Carolina has legitimately upgraded already, with room to continue (they don't have a good 3rd cornerback, and you critically need that).

It's not that Carolina didnt' value the guys they got for nearly nothing last year - Munnerlyn, for instance, was offered a 3 year deal, and I think Mitchell was, too. They got improbably lucky that an experienced and system-knowledgeable Quintin Mikell was available at the start of the season, and that they were able to nab two undrafted players (Melvin White and Robert Lester) to contribute heavily.  But those players worked out partially because of the front seven, and others didn't work out despite it.  That last trio I'm not counting toward last year - not really being in the veteran plans, but even with, I think Carolina's better this year.

From a talent standpoint, and honestly a 'fit' standpoint, having two veteran safeties that fit their roles (compared to shoehorning Mitchell to free safety, a move I'm still amazed worked) is a major benefit.  They're both veterans - last year, early reliance meant Mitchell with zero experience and Charles Godfrey moving out of his element to FS.  The other corners struggled enough that Josh Norman became the fan favorite and Josh Thomas became the early starter.  Munnerlyn held his spot, but midseason almost got benched because of Miami.  None of the starters picked up otherwise played well enough to supplant the rookie White, and Mitchell had to have a second chance because of injury - again, out of place. 

A lot of that secondary success came at significant luck - the pair of UDFAs growing up quickly, Mitchell fitting at FS despite being barely competent looking (and uncontrolled) at his more natural SS.  Only Munnerlyn really worked out as planned, Florence being a nice guy to bring back off the street because of injury and therefore no more in the plans than Mikell.

I don't see that with the highly talented versions of the scrap-heap this year.  Roman Harper does have coverage concerns deep, a concern eased with playing him in the box a great deal more.  Thomas Decoud brings back a more natural FS.  Antoine Cason brings back a guy who did his best work under the same men currently in charge of this mess.

There's room for failure, sure.  The skeptic can pick it apart.  Cason didn't start last year.  Decoud, soft.  You could argue Harper is a dirty meathead.  All of these players were, at a time, unwanted while teams gave guys like Munnerlyn and Mitchell $5 million.  I find there to be more talent there, honestly, than the $5 million men - either of which I'd have loved to have, for the money we're paying these new guys now.  But I think right now, we're ahead of the game comparatively. 

Decoud Signs, Two Years

Thomas Decoud is now a Panther, assumedly for two years.  The deal is a 2 year deal that's worth as much as $3.75 million, with $500,000 guaranteed. 

There's no information at this point whether the team processed the signing bonus in the recent trend of adding dummy years, i.e., $500,000 over five years that would prorate $100,000 each season and therefore count $300,000 in the third year when the contract ends.

If not, chances are it's a basic deal that would include roughly $1 million in 2014, $250,000 of that bonus, $1.5 million or so in 2015 (plus the other half of that bonus proration), and potentially incentives to cover the remaining $750,000. 

Keep in mind that's 100% a guess.  I have no clue, the only thing we know is that Adam Schefter says 2 years, $500k guaranteed, and up to $3.75 million total. $2 million a year isn't bad at all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jonathan Stewart Now Breaking News About Ed Dickson Signing

Yesterday, former Ravens TE Ed Dickson tweeted he was is in talks with
the Panthers, and now fellow Oregon alumni Jonathan Stewart is tweeting
he's signed.

After the report surfaced about the meeting, a few internet outlets were
suggesting a signing is likely, and that only the formalities were left
to figure - basic negotiation, workout, maybe dinner, and meetings.

Dickson becomes the odds-on favorite to be the 2nd TE and blocking
specialist in Carolina. Assumedly, Richie Brockel and Brandon Williams
would fight out for the scraps with recent signing Mike McNeill.

Around The Draft: Morgan Moses

Virginia OT Morgan Moses is the latest in this nonsense attempt at 60
prospects within the two months before the draft.

Moses is an imposing lineman, posessing ideal size and good strength.
Measuring at 6'6 and, in the process of workouts somewhere between 315
and 330, he nonetheless has quick feet, a good first step, and has good
technique in pass protection. There's no question in my mind he can be
a high-level left tackle for pass protection purposes, and he has the
size to be a good run blocker, including tenacity to fight to the
whistle. He's a massive player to get around, and he has no problems
with inside or outside moves, mirroring quick guys and stoning big guys.

He does struggle a bit with the inside-outside moves, so I don't know
how well he'll get setup for that one move a game. He has to get a
little better at the second level, where he's not very low on the move -
but that's tough, and while LTs do block down on the DT or have to go
seek out a LB sometimes, it's not the biggest deal to me.

There's some internet concern over his weight, and certianly when I see
he'd weighed in at one point at 315 I was surprised. Apparently his
history at UVA includesa time at 350 and he may have gotten larger than
that. A 330+ lb tackle has some concern when it's not coming with
proper workouts. That part reminds me too much of the Bryant McKinnie
issue, and while he pitched in some good work with the Ravens toward the
end, McKinnie could've saved himself a lot of heartache along the way
too.

That concern aside - and the rookie contract situation might alone take
care of that, wherein a successful millionaire adult has more motivation
and sense than a high school senior version of that player - Moses seems
right now to be the most likely player in my mind at the 28 pick. He's
rated right around there, he fits what I've seen of OT picks in this
scheme and by OL coach John Matsko, and the OL is the greatest need. If
he were there, he's not a steal, but he's the player I'd assume Carolina
to choose based on need. I think this pick would go a long way toward
creating the offense Carolina anticipates having.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ed Dickson Breaks News About Ed Dickson, Carolina

Former Ravens TE Ed Dickson is in talks with the Panthers, and with
twitter on talking with the Panthers.

The former Raven and Oregon Duck TE is a free agent and might come to
Carolina, with a few internet reports suggesting a signing is likely.

6'5, 255, with 4.59 speed at combine, Dickson was a 3rd rounder in 2010.
He started the full 2011 season, with 54 receptions and 5 TDs. His
production and number of starts dropped in the following two years,
catching 21 and 25 passes respectively, with one score last year and
none in '12.

Dickson gets high marks for his blocking, and he has good speed. His
main inconsistency comes in receiving, but he can still be a threat.

If he does come to Carolina, expect him to take the Y tight end spot, on
the line, more often, with Greg Olsen moving more. Olsen can do either,
but Dickson is the better blocker, and generally, Olsen has relinquished
his spot on the line with 2 TE in the game.

Around The Draft: Stephon Tuitt, Kony Ealy

I'm attempting to catch up a bit on my Around The Draft profiles, and I'm throwing out a different type of guy this time, double dipping with a pair of edge rushers.   As Carolina reaches a minimum amount of necessary veterans at every position except arguably OT, a true Best Player approach becomes more and more possible.

So, I'm throwing out an oddball, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt.  The swing DT/DE is a massive prospect in the late first round - a 6'5, 300 lb defensive lineman who essentially fits anywhere on almost any defense.  He could play two-gap DE, though most 3-4 teams are one-gap anymore; he can play that 5-technique well, I'm sure he could fit at 3-tech if needed, and he's a guy who could project outside at left end. 

He has a concern about motor and work, where he struggled early in his junior year with an injury and wasn't in good shape, all after a ridiculously good sophomore season.  He also showed up at combine with an unaddressed foot issue that makes some of the combine and workout numbers a mystery.  In this system, with our DTs and DEs, I like how he'd have to fight for reps, and the team clearly did consider that with the Star Lotulelei/Kawann Short duo (both of which had to take on too much in college in reps and role).  He has near - elite level athleticism for his size,
which if you can harness it could be lethal, though he's not quite as sudden at edge rushing as other big men Carolina has run through here (Greg Hardy, Julius Peppers).

He's risky - which comes with high reward, of course.

I'd like to knock out Kony Ealy as well - a similarly large DE who I tend to like more for the edge and less for the versatility of Tuitt (I find him a better prospect, if we're taking score).  6'4, 273, a part of an amazing rush in Missouri, now in the SEC.  He plays quicker than he times his 40 (4.9), showing very good 3-cone and shuttle numbers.  He shows strong aptitude for pursuit and can drop to coverage if that's what you need. 

He can get stronger, and he's not as good as he will be whil he gets his technique up; he won't survive double teams yet.  He plays the run better in pursuit than head-up, but isn't giving a lot of ground either way. 



With either player you get high value.  You get what you pay for early on, regarding measurables, in a way that later picks might have you choosing between being able to play the run well or the pass well.  Both of these players provide the ability to get out from under Charles Johnson's contract, or not pay Greg Hardy eventually, depending on your viewpoint.    Of the two, Ealy fits better, and has more high end. 

It's not the ideal way to go for needs-based analysis, but there's a legitimate philosophy in play for this type pick.  If it were me, in a bubble, I'd extend Johnson's contract rather than dump him, as he's still playing at a high level and has many years left. 

Around The Draft: Justin Verrett


CB Kyle Fuller is in town.  While visits are just a part of scouting – I would anticipate visits with anyone that’s not a QB, LB, or RB – I want to use it as a part of today’s ATD:60.  They’ve already met with CB Jason Verrett, who’s my subject of the day.

The TCU product is widely considered, along with Fuller, to be in range for Carolina’s 28 pick.  It’s an oddity, to a point, in a draft completely full (3 rounds worth) of underclassmen, that Verrett, Fuller, Darqueze Dennard, and Justin Gilbert are all seniors.   GM Dave Gettleman only drafted seniors last year, if there’s anything to that trend.

 Verrett isn’t quite as measured as the ideal Ron Rivera DB, at 5’10/180-190, but he has a lot to offer past that.  His combine 4.38 was blazing fast, he rated very high in the vertical, 3 cone, and the 20 yard shuttle.   He threw up 19 reps on the bench – and he plays physically strong.   That can be a good thing (he’s already strong) or a bad thing (he might be physically topped out, won’t ever be much more than 200 lbs), but I choose to look at it as a positive. 

But all that’s the meat market part of evaluation.  He shows good ball skills, good fluid backpedal and turn, and good instincts.  He’s somewhat more of a football player than just a corner – he’ll play special teams, he tackles well.   He doesn’t miss many assignments, and he attacks the ball well.   He’s an ideal slot guy who should be able to play outside as well. 

So, it appears if he were 6’1, he would be a top 20 pick.  But, as it stands, he’s the sort of guy who should be there at 28, and who knows, could fall a round behind some juniors who have greater measurables.

Carolina has the need for another corner, especially one that can play the slot.  Verrett would be an immediate hit on special teams, improve the secondary, and probably work his way into starting soon.  Carolina needs longevity at CB, where they have rolled in one year deal guys for a few years now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Colin Cole Signs: Nothing on DeCoud

NT Colin Cole has returned to the team with a one year deal expected to be near the veteran minimum for his experience.  Cole started 13 games, is massive, and that's about it.

I don't know if, given that Cole is returning, whether the team might eventually cut Dwan Edwards.  Edwards' 2012 was a bit of an outlier statistically, but his two year deal was essentially set up so that he could be cut this year for a $1.2 million savings.  I'm generally in favor of keeping Edwards, but dropping him would pay for Cole and another inexpensive veteran.

FS Thomas Decoud left town without a contract.  It doesn't close the deal from happening, and prior suggestions were that the two sides were close.  I don't know if the Jason Avant meeting became a distraction, but Decoud makes sense for this team.

10 Catches/WR Improvement?

It's hard to directly project the WR squad right now, but it's certainly clearer.

All of this is, of course, pending the draft, and on paper.

Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery appear to be the guys who would start.  Avant, whose living appears to be best made in the slot, would give way to Tiquan Underwood at the flanker logically - so Cotchery is the split end.   Now, all of that's simplified, since Carolina runs so many fronts and shifts.  This isn't the Dan Henning version of Coryell that had Steve Smith lineup on the line, to the left, every down.  But, again, to simplify, that's what I'd see.

To fill depth, Kealoha Pilares has played the split, and I'd guess Travares King would be there too.  Marvin McNutt, the flanker.  I don't know if much of that will matter.


Now, as to those 10 catches Ron Rivera wants to replace:

First off, I believe that with drops and mistakes between Cam Newton and the WRs that would be outside an acceptable range, really the team is anticipating getting back 12 receptions from a greater efficiency standpoint.   It's not coincidental that the team has picked up three sure-handed guys, two of which are very good route runners.  There were times, of course, where the design of the offense was better than the production it received in the passing game.

But, those ten catches.   It's hard to expect exactly what future production will be, but here's the past.
Avant, as a complementary receiver, had about 3.5 a game.  Cotchery, last year, 3. Underwood, 1.25. 6.75 receptions a game.  Now, you can predict about 20% more from a standpoint of greater opportunity, and that gets you closer to 10.




As for draftees?   It's hard to say.

In some form, you could argue that the minimum player would fight for a 4th WR spot.  That spot last year played about 10%, played a major role in two games with Domenik Hixon.  The year before, Armanti Edwards caught a handful of balls and played about 10% as well.  Both players had one impactful play.  That said, there was fairly good attendance from the first three players both of those years.

That type role, you don't draft very highly for, yet.

The high end of the range, of course, is a starter.  There's no doubt that the remaining players are more of a support role, and a complete player could really tie it together.


So what does it mean from a draft standpoint?  Very little, really.  But, for now, the requirement of two draft picks, or even one, isn't there anymore.

Around The Draft: Martavis Bryant

Next up on the seemingly endless run of prospects I intend to break down (25 to 85-ish overall) in the 60 days leading up to the draft is Martavis Bryant, WR from Clemson.

Bryant could be a randomly created profile of the various second tier receivers.  He fits the average profile in every way, with one exception – he’s tall.  6’4, with long arms.  That’s where Bryant stands out.  Now, he’s not thick like Kelvin Benjamin or Donte Moncrief, or other guys with a little height, so he’s not that imposing physically.  He has to add bulk to be a true threat.  For now, though from a size/speed standpoint, you’re getting a vertical athlete with legit 4.40 speed.  You’re getting a guy who can provide you high percentage of jump ball type situations. 

Now, if you want a full route tree, you’ll have to teach him how to do that.  Since he doesn’t do much there, the double move isn’t really in play, either.  He played in a very open offense that had an elite level receiver in Sammy Watkins, so he doesn’t know how to carry the full load.   In that open offense, he still only pitched in 42 catches (though it was for 800+ yards/7TD).  He makes the most of his opportunities, but he’s not going to be a guy who gets a ton of those opportunities.

The question with Bryant becomes – is he, in a best case scenario, Randy Moss or maybe Herman Moore?  or is he Donald Hayes, Stephen Hill, and that type?  Is he Tiquan Underwood?  Because Carolina has a more surehanded version of Bryant in Underwood, one that’s figured out already how to make a living doing his best with a few deep balls a game.  While Carolina does like a deep threat, they might not use one enough to have two on board.

Bryant’s ceiling is quite high.  With experience in hand already, they could sit on Bryant in the second and anticipate him filling out into the stouter, well rounded receiver they'll need in a year.  Whether there's enough to work with?  That's hard to say.  Right now, I'd say a Bryant pick would have a hard time getting off the bench for Carolina.

Jason Avant Signs

Former Eagles WR Jason Avant is now a Panther.

The 31 year old Michigan star comes from Philly with high recommendations and a solid history.

Avant, who played in a completely different scheme under Chip Kelly last year, started a career high number of games (13, after nipping at roughly half the season in the prior years) but dipped in production to 38 rec/447 yards, adding in two scores, after an average of 52 rec/620 yards in the prior three years (two total scores).

Interesting in that, Avant was 4th in the league in slot yards, behind Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, and Marques Colston (source: profootballfocus.com).  So, on a team with a top WR and RB combo, Avant didn't have a nose for the endzone, but he was a guy who made the most of the underneath routes.

Related to that "different scheme", however, I will say that Avant brings a lot to the table that transfers.  He's used to dealing with mobile QBs, and gets open well on scrambles (he's good in his routes, but he's good in improv as well).  Both Carolina and Philly ran the ball a lot, and he's a good blocker.  He's used to packaged plays, something Carolina runs as well.

Honestly, it seems like a good fit for a team trying not to have a #1 receiver.  If that's smoke, it's smoke, but for now, Carolina's upped the reliability of their WR unit, if not the talent.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jason Avant Hosted By Panthers, Monday

Former Eagles WR Jason Avant is apparently going to be in Charlotte Monday, visiting the same day as former Falcons FS Thomas Decoud.

Avant, a posession receiver, is 31.  Without imposing characteristics, the 6', 215 lb Avant is widely heralded as a good guy in the locker room, and while not a game breaker, the type that will get you the yards you need.  Which, honestly, sounds like a two year younger Jerricho Cotchery with even more character.

Avant was cut by the Eagles before Desean Jackson was, and while Jackson's departure came after various rumors, a trade suggestion, and then finally leaked rumors that there were gang ties, Avant was released amidst effusive praise and honor from his team.  A quick check of the internet suggests that continued to happen up to now, from former teammates and fans.

Avant came into the news a few days ago, with whispers from the Chiefs camp suggesting they'd look at him after the draft.  Detroit Free Press writer Josh Hencke suggested on the 4th that Avant had "three offers" and wouldn't be out of work long.

While he does duplicate a bit of what Cotchery does, he does seem overall to do it better. For various reasons, including playing on a team with potentially the best back in football right now, Avant hasn't been in the endzone much; he had two on 38 catches last year, none the year before, and one each in the two prior (that three year span, Avant was averaging 52 catches a year and 12 ypc).  He's sure handed, good intermediately, and like Cotchery, the type that's probably going to get you that first down you need on third and 6, the team's MO the last 24 or so games.

I like the possible move.  It leaves Carolina potentially leaning toward an OT pick, and possibly not needing a WR move at all, early in the draft based on need.  Since Dave Gettleman picks based on a best-player philosophy, it might be smart to make this move.

There's not a lot left in free agency past Avant, most notably the temporarily injured (like Miles Austin) or the chronically injured (Sidney Rice).  Avant isn't as explosive as either, but he's generally present, and he does what you expect him to do.  Assuming Carolina is anticipating spending more time winning time of possession than the scoring title, it should be a good fit if he signs.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Colin Cole: Contract Talks

It's hardly Greg Hardy-level negotiations, but the one missing (but available) starter from the 2013 Panther defense is in negotiations - NT Colin Cole.

Cole started 13 games for Carolina, a mild surprise when the starting duo had been billed as Dwan Edwards (who started the other 3 - the first two, and the season finale) and rook Star Lotulelei.  Star and Cole switched roles at times, but Cole played mostly NT, leaving the massive Lotulelei to make more plays.  Cole only played 30% of snaps, however, giving way to Lotulelei and fellow rookie Kawann Short for more playing time (not coincidentally, this pairing was far more effective than any other pairing against the run; Cole had some struggles, and Edwards is not a good run defender)

Now 33, Cole would have nine years experience coming into the year.  The deal is expected to be near the minimum.

Around The Draft: Cameron Fleming

I'm doing 60 prospects in 60 days, though that process hasn't been as linear as I might hope.

Today's 25-to-85 rated prospect is Stanford OT Cam Fleming. He's not quite rated at 85 everywhere, and I've seen him past 100 as well.  But, he fits what Carolina needs in a lineman.

Fleming adds what you expect out of a right tackle - size (6'5, 322), good enough reaction off the snap, but slightly slower feet and a propensity for playing a little high. He's a good run blocker, inline or moving, and does well on the second level.  He seems to get the angles of the game and, as much as people try to pin the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree as WCO, it's not.  It's Coryell just as much as Carolina is.  Fleming essentially plays in this offense already.

He's the type you would figure to come out of Stanford, maybe not as nasty or mean as you might want but always gets it done.  He's coming out as a Junior because his degree's completed (aeronautics/astronautics), not because he's only chasing money.  His 38 starts are an exceptional sign for an underclassman.



As a fit here in Carolina, I think he makes a lot of sense.  In the third or fourth, this is as good as you can expect out of a lineman - experienced, smart, good technique and some physical limitations.  If the team does in fact push Byron Bell left, Fleming makes sense to compete at RT, where Carolina's drop scheme might help his slower feet and where his run blocking can flourish.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Around The Draft: Jace Amaro

60 days, 60 prospects, if I can fit it in.  I missed the last two days, this nonsense tells me.  I'm part-time into a bottle of rye already tonight so it's not going to be smart to catch up yet.

Amaro - 6'5, 265 - has been running high lately, passing Austin Sefarien-Jenkins and at one point was threatening Eric Ebron, the current top rated TE. A 4.74 at combine and some questions about his maturity make him a wild-card for the draft, but for Carolina's purposes he's a 2nd or 3rd rounder (and, by need, not earlier than a 3rd).

Texas Tech used the massive Amaro in the slot, mostly.  That's an interesting bit for this offense, which often uses the TE on option routes (as well as the somewhat famous F-post, often run by a TE).  But, using a 4.74 guy in the slot might be a bizarre thing in the NFL. He did run a 4.59 and 4.62 in his pro day, if that's worth anything.

Since he was in the slot so much, he doesn't have much experience as a blocker, bizarre enough - I don't know, I've never looked at a 260 lb player on this side of the ball that doesn't block, so I don't know what to do with that. He's a unique talent that might play the H-back role, who might play in base but move out to the slot or split a lot of time, in a more spread offense than this one.

He's a very good receiver, there's no doubt of that.  Whether his numbers were inflated by that offense, or whether he has the speed to threaten the deep ball in the pro game, is hard to say.  Whether a team can live without him blocking, depends on what system he's in.  A pro spread with packaged plays?  yes.  A smashmouth team looking for an inline blocker?  Probably not.


Another TE, and another reason to point out the Panthers suggested they almost took Tyler Eifert (though two defenders would've had to not fall).  Yes, they have Greg Olsen, and there's no reason to suggest that will change anytime soon, or at least I hope not.  But, they have to find every possible way of improving.  I think the thing that will truly matter to their grading will be whether they think they can get him to block.

DeCoud Visiting

Former Falcons Pro Bowler Thomas DeCoud is visiting on the other side of the weekend.

The former Cal star was a Pro Bowler in '12, getting in as an alternate (in a season where he had 6 INT). He fits the profile Rivera likes - 6'2, 200, so long and rangy, and he plays the ball well.   He's had inconsistency in tackling, and he's not going to be the blitzer in the group, so he's not going to be able to do some of the things Mike Mitchell did.  You could obviously argue that Roman Harper is going to play that role from SS, but they did bring the FS a lot last year.

A 3rd rounder in 2008, he was a re-signing in 2011 (5 years, $17.5 million), he was cut for salary cap issues.  He openly talked about what DC Mike Nolan called a "slump" last season.

So, having been paid somewhat, DeCoud is the type of guy who might be hungry enough to take something less, like the nominal two year deals Dave Gettleman's been handing out lately.  He's a player who has high upside, especially behind a good front seven.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Around The Draft: Billy Turner

This is the latest in my 60 days, 60 prospects countdown to the 2014 Draft, encompassing guys that rate in the neighborhood of 25-85 around the time I'm writing.

Today's future milloinaire is Billy Turner, OT from North Dakota State.  He looks the part (look the part, be the part motherfucker!) at 6'5, 315, and is a four year starter (44 games at LT, 12 at RT).  He's got prototypically light feet, good athleticism, and he's smart from what I can tell.  Scouts in multiple places, since I haven't and likely would never meet Turner, give praise for on-field demeanor, toughness, and aggression.  He's eager, energetic, and angry.

The downside?  It appears scouts don't love that he's high cut and leaner on the low end (built more TE than G), which means he could have some trouble anchoring against the bullrush or against the run if he's asked to block down.  So, as you get toward the third round, you find guys like this.  Really athletic, can protect well, but might not block against the run as well.  He might be somewhat limited in that phase.

But, he might not, too.  He looks like he's got room to grow, he's apparently tough and smart, I don't see a lot of downside. A significant amount of blocking comes from simple want, and he seems to get good leverage in college, so I don't know for certain he's not going to run block well.

He's not going to provide you much versatility - despite playing at RT, that feels more of an emergency situation; he gets to the second level well but he won't be that powerful at guard.

He might be a better fit where a team does more dumpoffs than runs, but if you want to cheaply protect Cam Newton's blind side, this is the best value out there. Possibly available in the third, definitely in the second, Turner's a bargain LT that this team could use.