This is my list of the 10 draft prospects that will raise me out of my chair with excitement on Draft Day. Before reading my list, I want you to know where I am coming from. This is one of my most favorite times of the year and speculation runs rampant. Everyone has their own opinions as to what the Panthers should do. Should the Panthers focus on a position of need? Come hell or high-water they must take a LT? Not so fast.
I recall the 2012 when we were selecting 9th overall. We were just coming off Cam’s rookie season and most everyone was clamoring for a WR or DE. Hardy had not yet emerged as the force he went on to become. Steve Smith was starting to slow down a bit and he even said that he welcomed a complimentary receiver. What would have happened had we followed need and popular opinion in 2012?
The consensus among Panther fans at the time was to try and replace what we were missing from the loss of Peppers (a couple of years prior) or to bring in the best possible WR. Hometown star Quinton Coples was the most popular pick and social media was abuzz when he received a visit from Coach Rivera two days prior to the draft. When Luke Kuechly's name was called, Panther fans were not excited and many were down right ticked off. Why would Hurney do that when we have Jon Beason? Especially when Quinton Coples and Michael Floyd were available. Thank God and Marty Hurney that we went the way of BPA.
Click here to look back at that draft, and do you think the Cowboys would like a do-over? They “needed” a CB and went with Morris Claiborne. How’d that work out? Think they’d rather have Luke?
Below are The Ten Players I’d Love At Pick 25
(To be on this list, they have to be arguably the best at their position or skill set)
First-Team All-SEC Defensive End that I view as the best pure DE in the draft. Beasely, Gregory, Ray and Fowler get the headlines for their edge rushing abilities but Dupree is the only one with enough size (267 lbs.) to also play the run and set the edge against NFL Tackles. He had 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2014 and will be a good long term and eventual replacement for Charles Johnson. This would keep our strengths strong and would get the best pure DE in the draft.
9- Malcom Brown
Definitely not the biggest need and arguably not a need at all. Here’s why I draft him: First-Team All-American that is absolutely dominant. At 6’2/ 319 lbs., he lead his team in tackles for loss. That is Gettleman’s kind of guy. Also two other factors come into play here: Our back up DTs are at the end of their careers and surely will take a step back this year. And second, signing Brown would not force us to have to re-sign both KK Short and Star Lotulelei who are coming up on contract years. This selection keeps the Panthers’ strengths strong.
Here’s a guy that I’ve gone back and forth on. Last year at this time, I projected him as Top 15 this year. He plays with a nastiness that I love and is a road-grader in the run game. He is athletic and has good feet. However, he perplexes me when I watch him. He ends up on the ground way too often and has very suspect balance. However, I see him as a long term Tackle that most likely will be on our right side next to college teammate Trai Turner. If his balance issues prove to be correctable, I can see him moving to the Left. And C3 contributor, Smokewagon, points out that he believes there isn’t much difference in responsibilities between the Left and Right Tackles in the Panthers scheme. Maybe he’ll do a write up on that one day. But though it isn’t clear where La’el would play for the Panthers, it is clear he would add talent and improve the starting five.
If not for injuries, Humphries would be a top 15 lock. He has the prototypical size and perfect demeanor. He looks so impressive in controlling his opponents and getting out to the second level. I see him as the second best but most ready LT prospect in the draft. I’d be thrilled with this pick. Hometown guy too!
David Gettleman likes big men with rare abilities. Melvin Gordon is just that at the RB position. 6’1/ 215 lbs. while running a 4.52 40. Team Captain, which is always a Panther calling card, and seemed to get better as the game went on. Very durable and has the body to help in pass-protection. 206 yards in one game against a defense averaging just over 100 per game. Absolutely explodes through holes and reminds me of a bigger Jamaal Charles.
Here’s an underrated guy that I’ve even heard some folks say may slip to the second round. Most however see him as a top 12 selection. If he falls to 25, OMG. This guy is 6’3/ 209 lbs. and runs a 4.45 40. He’s only dropped three passes in three years. I watched his comeback game this past year against NC State and he was clearly the best player on the field. He is better than Kelvin Benjamin and had he been healthy all season, he would be a top 10 lock.
4- Trae Waynes-
The best CB in the draft. Great size at 6’0/ 188 lbs. and elite speed at 4.31 40. Can play any system but will excel as the bump-and-run guy that sticks like glue to the opposing team’s #1 WR. Very experienced with 23 Collegiate starts and projects as a Day 1 starter. Pair him with Norman and Sticki Wicki and the Panthers all of a sudden have a Top 5 DB group. No way to pass on Waynes if he were to surprisingly fall to 25.
3. Andrus Peat-
I know there are a lot of folks that are not Peat fans and I admit when you watch his tape you can find him lunging too often. However, he has the most upside to me at LT. He was Second Team All-American at LT behind Scherff and Cameron Erving. At 6’7/ 317 lbs, I see him as having an elite frame and near elite athleticism. He has long arms and huge hands. And have you seen his lower body? With some proper techniques and coaching from Coach Matsko, he can be our long-term answer at LT. Could he fall to 25? Probably not, but if he is there, he would be tough to pass on.
This All-American Safety is the unquestioned best Safety in the Draft. And this is not a draft where you can get a quality Safety later on. This selection would not surprise me at all. He is a rare athlete. Big enough at 6’0/ 228 to drop down in the box and fast enough with runs a 4.53 40 to cover all Tight Ends and most WRs. He started the last 23 games in Alabama and was their best defensive player. And he can play either Safety spots in the Panthers Defense. Would absolutely love this pick.
1. Todd Gurley-
Transformational player, difference maker, unique skill set, are all phrases used to select this North Carolina Native. Assuming that knee checks out, how could we possibly pass on such a difference maker? Not our biggest need, but again you can’t draft based on biggest need. Did the Cowboys need Claiborne to be what he was? Take the BPA. Watch these Top 10 plays and see if you can honestly tell me you’d rather him be in Atlanta than Charlotte. I promise you if he is there at the Falcons second pick, he is the selection. Wouldn’t be shocked if Falcons take in in Round 1.
I have two honorable mentions that I think would also make great picks but don’t crack my Top 10 because there is too much uncertainty as to where they will play. And because well you can only have 10 in your top 10. They are Shaq Thompson and Cameron Erving. If chosen, I’ll be on board with either player as they were both All-Americans and Erving a 2-time LOT All-American. The thought of Shaq needing to move to Safety and Erving to Guard or Center makes me pause on pulling the trigger. But I would not be upset. I do remember Thomas Davis (my favorite Panther) also was a player that had to find a spot for him. Eventually he excelled and these two players could too, that is why they earn honorable mentions.
So that is a total of 12 players that I’ll be happy with at Pick #25. Give me your thoughts.
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