The NFL draft is around a week away and it is time for us Panther fans to speak out. In this article I will list 2-5 available players per defensive position grouping at pick #25 based on Drafttek’s latest mock draft, plus a few that could be at the backend of round one come draft day. In case you didn’t know, C3’s very own “Mel Mayock” (@PantherDrafter) does the picks and write-ups for the Panthers on Drafttek; it is definitely worth a look if you haven't already done so. After viewing the players listed, you may vote on the poll. Part 1 offense's poll, is still up and active, so vote if you haven't already done so. The offensive and defensive poll winners will be featured in Part 3 with a more in depth evaluation and a final poll on April 28th, on day 1 of the draft (April 30th) the winner will be revealed. So let’s see who Panther Nation wants as our future star!
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
Odighizuwa has been a popular dark horse candidate for the Panther’s first round pick. He is an all around solid player, and has tremendous room for improvement. He has had two hip surgeries (ouch), which is definitely concerning. He’d be a gamble late in the first, but with Charles Johnson getting older and still expensive; we will need to invest in future prospects to keep the D Line strong. Odighizuwa might be the guy to do it. Goes #40 to the Giants in Drafttek’s mock.
Arik Armstead, Oregon
Armstead had the talent to light the Pac 12 on fire, but never did. Based off athleticism alone he would be one of the most talented defensive tackle prospects in the draft, probably only behind Leonard Williams. Even though his stats maybe aren’t what you want from a potential first rounder, Sean McDermott could get the best out of him. He’d be a versatile guy who could play defensive end and tackle, and could be leverage for Star/Short’s future contract negotiations. Goes #35 to Oakland in Drafttek’s mock.
Eddie Goldman, Florida State
Another Hog Mollie Gettleman will have his eye on come draft day. Goldman is a much better and younger version of Colin Cole. He is a dominant run stopper and has the speed and skills to be in the opponent’s backfield every play. Drafting him would allow us the ability to put three tackles on the line at once, with Star/Goldman playing tackle and Short rotating to defensive end on running downs (without sacrificing pass rush). That would be a monster lineup, running backs would have to close their eyes and hope for the best, a 2 yard gain. Goes #29 to Indianapolis in Drattek’s mock.
Danielle Hunter, LSU
There is one word to describe Danielle Hunter, freak. He finished top among defensive end prospects at the combine with a blistering 4.57 40 yard dash, pretty good for someone who is 6’5” 252 pounds. Like Armstead, his athleticism didn't exactly turn into gaudy statistics in college. Also like Armstead, his ceiling is very very high. With some polish on his pass rush moves, he could/should turn into what Dion Jordan is supposed to be. Goes #52 to Philadelphia in Drafttek’s mock.
Shaq Thompson, Washington
According to Pro Football Talk, Shaq Thompson said that the Panther’s have been in contact with him more than any other team. This comes as no surprise, considering he has a bright NFL future at either outside linebacker, safety, or even running back. At linebacker he would start alongside Thomas Davis and Kuechly, and eventually supplant TD when he sadly retires. Thompson has drawn comparisons to Davis, and I’m sure he would love to be a student to the guy his outlook is compared to. Linebacker is one of least of the Panther’s problems, but if he’s there at #25, he’d probably be the best player available. His coverage skills are very good for a linebacker who hasn't played an NFL down, and could move to safety in a very similar way Earl Thomas did. Goes #24 to Arizona in Drafttek’s mock.
Eric Kendricks, UCLA
The brother of the Eagle’s star Mychal Kendricks, Eric is looking to carve out his own name it in NFL stardom. Kendrick’s game reminds me a lot of Luke Kuechly’s. He is a sideline to sideline run stopper and comes in more refined in pass coverage than Kuechly did. I’m not saying Kendricks is even close to Luke right now, but he plays a very similar type of game. Playing with a guy that shares a similar skill set would only be for the benefit of both, and the defense as a whole. Like Thompson, he would start at the Panther’s third linebacker spot and eventually take over TD’s role. Goes #30 to Green Bay in Drafttek’s mock.
Marcus Peters, Formerly Washington
In my opinion, Peters is the best cornerback prospect in this draft. He has good size at 6’0” and can play the quarterback remarkably well. His character is rightfully questionable, he reportedly tried to choke one of his coaches on the sideline. To be fair, I sometimes want to choke Mike Shula (just slightly kidding here). All joking aside, these accusations are serious and got him kicked off the team. If the Panther’s front office feel that they have the locker room to straighten him out (they do), they should most definitely pull the trigger at #25. Can you imagine the tandem of Peters, Norman, and Benwikere? I can, and it would be awesome. Peters and Norman would feed off each other, for better or worse. Goes #30 to New England in Drafttek’s mock.
Jalen Collins, LSU
Collins has the tools to be almost as good as former Tiger Patrick Peterson. He is tall (6’1”), strong (203 lbs), fast (4.48 40 yard dash), and long (32 1/8” arm length). He is raw and would probably take a year or so to develop enough to be a reliable starter, good thing we signed Tillman to a one year deal. Goes #26 to Baltimore in Drafttek’s mock.
Landon Collins, Alabama
Alas, we finally get to the pick mocked to us in Drafttek’s mock draft. Erin Ford (“Mel Mayock” @PantherDrafter) did a great writeup and is straight to the point. Basically, the strong safety spot is vital to a defense, and we need an upgrade. Roman Harper is old and slow, any Panther fan will know this, but still can contribute to our football team. Collins is a hard hitter with a nose for crushing his intended target. We have lacked a physical presence at safety since Mike Mitchell departed; Collins is just as physical and simply a better player too. Harper played his football at Alabama, and would be eager to coach up another part of the crimson bloodline. Goes #25 to Carolina on Drafttek’s mock.
Damarious Randall, Arizona State
Here is a recent riser at safety that could push Landon Collins as the first safety drafted. Despite his small size, (5’11’’ 196 lbs) he lives in the box and may have better pure coverage skills than Collins. His size is definitely a concern, but he is athletic enough to to move to free safety, and Tre Boston to strong safety. Whether Collins is drafted prior to #25 or not, if Gettleman is truly looking to upgrade at safety in the first round, Randall could be a sneaky pick. Goes #76 to Minnesota in Drafttek’s mock, no way he’s there in my opinion come draft day.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander