Sheewww, that was a great Super Bowl wasn't it? I was pulling for the Patriots by default in that one, mainly because I just don’t like the Seahawks. It also helps that one of my favorite players in the NFL, Julian Edelman, plays for New England. I love his versatility, the former Kent State quarterback is a Swiss Army Knife that can catch touchdowns, return punts for touchdowns, and as we saw recently, throw touchdowns. There is a receiver out of East Carolina University in which I see a little bit of Edelman, and should be high on the Panther’s radar. The Panther’s have a great home field advantage when it comes to scouting instate talent, the state of North Carolina currently has 7 division 1 football programs. This number may seem low, but it is actually tied for second in the nation behind Texas, and will move to solo second when the Charlotte 49ers move up in 2015. When you add the two outstanding football programs in the South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers, the Panther’s have the ability to tap into backyard talent like no other team. Here is a couple prospects to keep your eyes on:
School 1: Duke University. (Distance from Bank of America Stadium: 138 miles)
Prospect 1: Jamison Crowder, WR
The 5’8 slot receiver is an intriguing prospect, with height being the only big red flag. He is fast, sure handed, and has a knack for making incredible plays on the ball. He impressed at the Senior Bowl drawing some analysts to compare him to NFL receiving leader Antonio Brown. He has experience in the return game, and his speed would be welcomed in Carolina. A 4th-5th rounder right now, he's definitely a prospect to keep your eye on.
Prospect 2: Laken Tomilson, OG
The biggest key to Tomilson’s game is intelligence, not surprising for a Duke player right? The 6’3 230 pounder lacks athleticism among other things. A day 3 selection in my book at the moment with just enough skill to be a solid backup. Probably not too high on Gettleman’s big board, but don’t be surprised if he rolls the dice on him late in the draft.
School 2: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Distance from BOA: 145 miles)
Prospect 1: Norkeithus Otis, OLB
The Butkus preseason watch list nominee suffered through several nagging injuries and had a largely disappointing season playing with UNC’s gosh-awful defense. He started at UNC’s bandit (S/OLB) which requires a linebacker to be physical enough to stop the run, but also be coverage savvy. He is a bit of a tweener at 6’1 240 pounds, but has an extremely high motor and playmaking ability. Otis could go anywhere from the 5th round to undrafted; McDermott seems to get the best out of his players, and Otis could be a sneaky good pick. At the least, he would be a special teams demon, which for us, would be worthy of a seventh round selection.
Prospect 2: Tim Scott, CB/S
Scott is a versatile defensive back who likes to make big plays. The 6’0 senior accumulated 9 interceptions over the course of his career with the Tar Heels. Best suited to play safety in the NFL, Scott seems to be a practice squad guy to me at the moment. He has good speed for a possible safety and with development could surprise some people. Pairing him up with former college teammate Tre Boston could be an intriguing option, and it would only cost a day 3 pick or no pick at all.
School 3: North Carolina State University (Distance from BOA: 165 miles)
Prospect 1: Thomas Teal, DT
Teal was a solid producer for his entire career in Raleigh. After showing extreme promise his second year, hype built up, and he never really lived up to it even though his stats improved. He is a strong at stopping the run and exhibits good straight-line speed. He also possesses a thick lower body and can rotate to defensive end as a situational pass rusher. With Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards both past their physical prime and impending free agents, we need to add depth at defensive tackle. Maybe Teal can be an option.
Prospect 2: Bryan Underwood, WR
The 5’9 Underwood is a curious case at wide receiver. A quiet freshman season led to a breakout sophomore season, where he caught 44 passes for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns. His final season this past year was his least productive to date, accumulating 5 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown, with 65 yards and his lone receiving score coming off one catch. He became overshadowed by other receivers such as freshman Bo Hines, and possibly suffering through lingering pain from an injury that occurred his sophomore season. Either way, he is a fast and strong receiver who would be worth bringing in for a tryout to see if he can bring anything to the table.
Tweet @PantherDrafter, he’s an NC State fan (I feel sorry for him too (; ) and may know a few more prospects to keep an eye on.
School 4: East Carolina University (Distance from BOA: 250 miles)
Prospect 1: Justin Hardy, WR
The man with the golden gloves, the Backyard Baller, the all-time FBS leader in receptions; whatever you want to call him, this guy is Panther material. The 5’11 Pirate is very quick on the field and a crisp route runner, even though his route tree has been limited. He impressed at the Senior Bowl, displaying strong hands and catching nearly everything that came his way. He did have one off day, where he was given some tough coaching love about keeping concentration when the ball is in the air....but then he also did this as well.
He would be a great compliment to Benjamin, coming in with the route running skills and solid hands that Kelvin lacks at this point. He is shifty and shows strength after the catch, something we lacked last season. He is very similar to Julian Edelman in that they are close in height, slot receivers that have the ability to be spectacular route runners, and their proficiency at returning punts. The idea of pairing him as an outside receiver with Benjamin and adding a burner like the aforementioned Crowder is a tantalizing one. This could possibly achieved with a 2nd-3rd round pick on Hardy, and a 4th-5th on Crowder. Check out the most recent Drattek, Panther analyst Erin Ford has some great selections, two of them back up the Hardy and Crowder selections. In the meantime, cross your fingers Panther’s fans, this offense has potential to be among the most exciting again.
Prospect 2: Cam Worthy, WR
The other ECU receiver should not be forgotten in this draft process. Worthy posted a 1000 yard season despite being suspended for two games; this included a monster game against Virginia Tech where he caught 6 passes for 224 yards. The 6’2 downfield threat could be a steady riser in the draft process, probably topping out in the top of the fifth round. It would be intriguing if Cam were to throw to Cam, sure to spawn jokes and t-shirts if Worthy turned into a solid player. If he were to fall to the seventh round I’d jump all over him, and if he happened to be undrafted, the possibility of playing for his hometown team would definitely be an advantage in convincing him to sign with us.
School 5/6: Clemson and the University of South Carolina (Distance from BOA: 132 and 92 miles)
Prospect 1: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
I love Thomas Davis as much as anyone, but if Beasley is there at 25 I’d pull the trigger. He’d be the true definition of a blue goose, and spending a first rounder on one of our deepest positions would rile up many fans. But the phrase, “you can’t have too many pass rushers” is true, within reason. Davis is getting to the age where linebackers start to decline and it would be great to have someone who could step right in and dominate from day 1. Beasley wouldn't have to wait for Davis to leave before making his impact felt though, he could start as the third linebacker and even stick his hand in the dirt as a defensive end. It isn't likely he’s there at 25, but if he is, the question wouldn't be if we draft him, but how many seconds it will take before the pick is in.
Prospect 2: Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
Even with Jonathan Stewart’s rebirth, drafting a running back has been thrown around quite a bit in Panther’s mock drafts. Names like: Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, David Cobb, Jeremy Langford, and Duke Johnson have been in the conversation; Davis’ name should definitely be thrown into the mix. The 5’9 223 pound back is built like a compact car, and can put the pedal to the metal like one too. Built in the mold of a young Frank Gore, and our boy Jonathan Stewart, he poses a similar running style to them also. He’s a bowling ball and racks up yards after contact, a definite fit in Shula’s offense. Based on his track record, we can’t expect J Stew to play a full year, which means picking up another back for depth is a must. Davis’ name may get lost in this years group of talented running backs, making him a prime target and a possible steal in the draft. If he's there in the fourth I’d call him up, but if we don't and he's there at the bottom of the fifth, they might as well start getting him fitted for a helmet.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander