— The Carolina Panthers just got a little smarter and nastier with the selection of Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
In Kuechly, picked ninth overall, the Panthers get a certified tackling machine that combines big-time football intellect with big-time football athletic ability. Keuchly averaged 14 tackles per game over his college career and nearly 16 this past season.
The only-two-time, first-team All-American in BC history, Kuechly combines outstanding vision, instincts, lateral fluidity, the strength of a defensive lineman, hands of a wide receiver, a knack for always knowing where the ball is, and he has a ferocious streak that reminds some observers of some of the game's great linebackers.
"He was a guy that we knew if he was there he was the option there," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.
"You sit there and talk about the different aspects of his game physically," Rivera said. "But when you really put it down on paper and you watch him up on the board, you get excited about who he is as a football player."
What kind of football player is Kuechly exactly?
The previously mentioned numbers tell only part of the tale. He's more than a guy who racks up tackles.
This past season, Kuechly was responsible for 59 of BC's 115 third-down stops. He re-routed and jammed receivers on 45 (38.5 percent) of 118 plays versus the pass, had six pass breakups, three interceptions, forced a fumble and had six quarterback hurries.
He's the complete package, and was maybe the third best prospect in the draft after Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who went first and second, respectively, overall in the draft.
Kuechly is exactly the kind of personality and player this organization needed. They got a difference-maker on offense last year in selecting quarterback Cam Newton with the top overall pick.
This isn't suggesting Kuechly will have the same immediate impact, but he could be the anchor of the franchise's defense down the road, one in which the brass believes may have a Super Bowl or two in its future.
Kuechly's about as sure a thing as there is.
Sure makes me feel even better.
I love the defensive passing stats.
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