I put a lot of stock into what Profootballfocus.com does. If you don’t know, they have dozens of analysts and they watch every single snap of every single player in the NFL. They rate each play as to how the player performed compared to what would be expected of a player in their position. Their scouting is used by most NFL teams in terms of ranking players and are used contract negotiations. The Panthers have an overall ranking 20th on Offense and the only category that stands out as woeful is the pass-protection rating. As a matter of fact, the Panthers are ranked dead last in the league in this category with a -56 rating. Amazingly, Cam Newton is ranked 11th at QB. Imagine what he could do with a mediocre or better yet, a dominant Offensive Line. So the offensive line has to be a priority. I previously wrote about five offensive tackles to keep an eye on and you can read that here.
But for this article, I want to take a look at what other position needs focus in the upcoming draft. So the next lowest ranked position for the Panthers is our pass-coverage. The Defensive unit is ranked 21st overall, yet the only area that is rated on the low end of the scale is the pass-coverage unit with a rating of -23. The next lowest rated unit is the pass-rush unit at -2.7. So this is an area that is going to get a lot of my focus in the draft. Below are five Defensive Backs that I like and you should keep an eye on:
1. Landon Collins Alabama SS 6’0/215
I could see this being our top 10 pick if Scherff, Ogbuehi and Stanley are all off the board. He’s an impact player that we lack. Collins took over at SS for Alabama halfway through the 2013 season. He racked up 70 tackles in that period of time and was Alabama’s best defender at times. He is an elite caliber athlete and has it all as a SS. Can be fooled in coverage and will do better as a SS than FF. Would be a great fit in Carolina where he’d drop down alongside TD and Luke in the Nickel package. Huge upgrade over Harper and could team well with Tre Boston for a long time to come.
2. PJ Williams FSU CB 6’0/196
PJ is a very good athlete that has shown the ability to play both press-man coverage and an off-man zone scheme as well. Very fluid athlete that can keep up with elite receivers. Very good size as well. Needs to increase his strength but looks to be very good and versatile in the NFL. Would be a great choice for the Panthers. Especially a good pick if there is not going to be an elite pass-rush anymore and the DBs are going to be asked to do more. Williams, Norman and Stiki Wiki at Nickel is a formidable trio.
3. Trae Waynes Michigan St. CB 6’1/185
This guy would match up very well with Julio Jones. Trae has the prototypical size to stand up against the new-age WRs and also very fast running 4.5 40s. Needs experience but looks to have all the abilities to play and may be best in a Cover 2 scheme at this point because I'm not sure he is strong enough yet to jam someone at the line. Needs to add some strength. Would look good in Carolina.
4. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon CB 5’10/185
All-American CB and probably the most instinctual CB out there. More talented than any current Panther DB and would start right away. Only problem is he isn’t ideal in size and would be exploited against a Julio Jones. Solid in run support and most likely an ideal Nickelback. But there are several DBs his size in the league that have excelled. He’s pretty similar to Brent Grimes in my mind.
5. Anthony Harris Virginia SS 6’1/190
This guy is a very solid size for a SS and led the nation with 8 INTs in 2013. Has a knack to make game changing plays and could sneak into the first round. I would like to see a nastier side of him but is a playmaker. But he would be a great player to pair with Boston for a much upgraded Safety over Harper and DeCoud.
So there are five of a very talented upcoming class. I’m going to have my top players posted on this site real soon, but for now you get a sneak peak at five of the DBs that I have my eye on. Let me know your thoughts.