I'll list players that will be of interest to the Panthers based on current needs and draft value. Carolina will pick anywhere from 4th to 10th in the 2012 NFL draft.
A positions draft value is ranked based off of the draft's current depth at that position. (CB has a higher draft value then say DT)
Carolina Panther needs - CB, OLB, DT, OL, FS, WR
CB - The Panthers should be looking to select a CB at some point in the first two rounds.
1st round prospects
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - Claiborne might be the prototype for what a team looks for at the CB position. He's got size at 6-0 and 185, 4.4 speed and a knack for making big plays and staying in position. excels in man coverage and zone coverage. Claiborne will need to add some muscle and improve at playing the edge against, but those are his only real weaknesses and that makes him the top corner in the draft. Can also return kicks if needed.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama - Krikpatrick is a big guy for a corner, 6-2 and 195 ILB's. Kirkpatrick as a lanky frame that allows him to play the jump ball really well. While he Doesn't have elite speed and runs somewhere in the low 4.5's. An excellent zone DB that plays the run really well, will need to add some bulk before hitting the NFL. Imo, he Might be a more natural fit at FS then at CB, but should be able to play CB well enough in his early years.
2nd round prospects - Depending on the combine, Jenkins, Minnifield or Dennard could move up into the first round. I project all three with second round grades though, Minnifield being the most likely of the three to hit the first round.
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska - Stocky guy for a corner at 5-10 and 205 pounds. A very speedy and athletic corner and all the skills to be a solid pro as a coverage CB in the NFL. Fluid cover guy who stays on the hip of his WR, projects to be an excellent coverage guy with limited big play ability. Very instinctful and a fiery player. While he doesn't have elite leaping or pick ability for the position I believe his timing and technique could be greatly improved to help those skills a bit. If Dennard improves on his technique and makes a good showing up to the Combine, he could very well sneak into the late first round.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - Jenkins might be the best pure cover corner in the 2012 draft, but his stock has taken a hit because of Off the field troubles. He combines decent size 5-10, 183 ILBs with above average speed and elite quickness. A very fluid natural player who plays the position aggressive and goes after the ball which will result in him getting beat for big plays occasional, but also allows him to make the highlight reel.
Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia -The star senior corner from Virgina has an excellent combination of size 6-0, 185 and speed (low 4.4 speeds) combined with great athletic ability. Minnifield has great instincts and leaping ability and plays bigger then his size. Seems to have a nose for finding the football and making plays. Plays the position big and can lay the wood, making big hits, lacks fundamentals on his tackling that results in him missing some easy tackles. Excellent zone player with decent man skills as of now, with improved technique he could be a late first round or early second round steal and end up being the best corner in this draft. Also has experience playing both KR and PR and in his early days at Virgina excelled at ST's play.
4-3 Outside Linebacker - The second biggest need defensively for Carolina and will probably be looked at early. Either in the first or second round, depending on what the Panthers do at Corner.
1st round talent -
Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina -The highest rated LB in the 2012 draft by far, though Brown doesn't have elite size, but he sure does have elite speed for any position much less LB. The current UNC record holder for the 60 meter dash, 4.3-4.40 speed in a LB in unheard of. Excellent strength throughout and would surprise most with his way above average strength. Has proven to be an excellent coverage LB who can play the run and rush the passer over his years at UNC. A total package at LB with the only knock against him being his size.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - Kuechly has a knack for being around the ball, don't need to say much more. He has good size and a good frame that could easily add additional bulk to. Standing at 6-3 and 237, very limited as an athlete and doesn't have amazing speed or quickness. He makes up for that with his inelegance, instincts and knowledge of football. He's rarely out of place and would be a solid addition at either SLB or MLB for a 4-3 team.
2nd round talent
Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma - Good size at 6-2, 244 ILBs. He has all the tools to make it as an OLB in the NFL. Possessing good speed and instincts, usually takes good pursuit angles and delivers the wood when he gets to the Ball carrier. Plays with intensity and makes great decisions in the open field when tracking down the ball carrier.
Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma - Small framed guy standing at 6-2 and 227, Fits in well in the NFL as a WLB. Plays well in open space defending the pass, breaks on the ball carrier with speed and quickness. Will need to improve his fundamentals when tackling as he relies on hits more then tackles at this point. Plays the game with smarts and instincts and has a high football IQ. Will also need to bulk up in the Pro's to be an effective every down LB and will struggle early on in the run game.
DT prospects - While I don't expect Carolina to take a DT in the draft because of all the youth currently on the team (4 players with 2 season's or less of experience). There's still a chance that they take a flier on one at some point in the draft, just don't expect that to be early.
1st round prospects
There's very few players at the DT spot that are worth a first round grade in this draft and I'm hesitant to rank any of them as first round prospects as they all have serious question marks in projecting into the NFL and with a bad combine any of these guys will fall into the late 2nd or early third round of the draft. None of these guys are early first round picks, so Carolina would have to either move up from the 2nd round or drop back into the first to get them at a value.
While I'm hesitant to rank them really high, I know the lack of big time DT prospects in the draft will cause these guys stock to rise come combine time. I expect all of these guys to be taken earlier then they are worth.
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan St. Stout guy who should excel at either DT position in a 4-3 or as a 5 tech DE in a 3-4 defense. 6-3, 310 stout frame. He plays the run well and can hold the POA and posses the strength to make tackles while being blocked. Watching his early career you can tell that he has some pass rush ability and has a few moves to get to the QB. He has a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism and is the best DT prospect in the draft.
Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson Thompson projects more into a 4-3 as an under tackle, but he does posses the skill set and strength to play all three DT positions at the next level. When watching tape, he shows a great initial burst out of his stance and posses the strength to take on double teams. Has a few pass rush moves and plays both the pass and run well, but doesn't excel at either one of them. Right now he's projected to go in the late first or early second round. I expect him to have a solid combine and move his projection solidly into the first round.
2nd round prospects
Devon Still, DT, Penn State Still has a lot of limitations in his game based on his skill set and athleticism. He's a stout big guy at 6-5 and 310 ILBs with plenty of frame to add weight and develop more strength and a stronger base. Lacks effective pass rushing moves and will need to be worked up after he's drafted and will take a while to become an effective three down DT, but Still will come into the NFL as a handful on 1st and second downs against the run because of his size and strength.
Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington Ta'amu in my rankings comes out as a early second round pick, but he's likely to come off the board in the middle of the first round because he's considered to be the only true 3-4 NT in the draft. 6-3, 337 ILB's, he's a stout guy with some athleticism for his size. Will need to refine his frame and cut down on the fat and add some muscle and will also need some work with his pass rush technique. An NFL offseason and Ta'amu is likely a starting NT on a 3-4 team or a very stout 4-3 NT.
Will finish the rest later when I have the extra time....
Edited by carpanfan96, 14 December 2011 - 12:26 PM.