When the Panthers drafted Mayo in the fifth round, I wasn't sure whether I was more surprised of the pick, or the fact there was a draftee I hadn't heard of. On top of this, I couldn't understand why we drafted a second linebacker when we could have easily went the entire draft without selecting any. I read some stuff on him and came to agree with the popular consensus that Gettleman liked him and wasn't sure he’d make it to undrafted free agency. About three weeks ago I read an article talking about how big of a reach Mayo was, and that Gettleman’s overtrading left him in a position to where he had to irresponsibly draft a player not based off need or talent. This got me to thinking; was Mayo a choice based solely of the fear of him not going undrafted? Would David Gettleman do that? I have come to the conclusion that there is something more to the Mayo pick, and will try to convey my opinion throughout this article. When you boil it down after all, drafting is based primarily off of the best player available, need, or a combination of both; and I don’t think Gettleman is one to stray from these principles.
Best Player Available?
If Gett was actually worried about Mayo getting drafted in a later round, and came to the realization he had to snatch him over a better talent; why didn't he pick him with the second compensatory selection just a few picks later? If Mayo was just a guy destined to be over drafted by the Panthers, why wouldn't they pick up another guy and go on to select him with their last pick? I think it is because Mayo was a lot higher on team draft boards than the ones the media uses. Also, considering the Chiefs drafted a linebacker between Mayo and Artis-Payne, there may have been a real fear Kansas City would have selected him before the Panther’s final pick. Although Mayo wasn't the best pure talent on the board, he may have been good enough to warrant that selection.
Why would a team that boasts a linebacking corp of Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, offseason acquisition Jason Trusnik, former 5th round talent AJ Klein, and rookie surprise Adarius Glanton draft two more linebackers in the same draft? I’m not sure exactly, but it probably has to do with the “make your strengths stronger” philosophy. We know the reasoning behind Shaq Thompson’s selection, but why add another player to an already stacked position group? It’s because Thomas Davis only has a few seasons left, and Gettleman may view Mayo as a player that will assume the third linebacker spot in our defense when Shaq replaces TD on the strongside. Mayo is a guy that possesses qualities similar to Luke Kuechly, qualities that are missed when Luke leaves the field. If the Panthers are planning on making a deep playoff run, they will need to keep their best player fresh throughout the season. Mayo should earn a few snaps at inside linebacker when Kuechly is taking a breather, and can use his endless motor/effortless tackling to make the gap in the defense a little smaller when Luke is off the field. Mayo should also develop into a stellar special teams player, which is a definite need.
Mayo’s selection was most likely based on a combination of the best player available and player of need philosophies. He is a player that can start as a force on special teams and eventually earn backup snaps at inside linebacker, and maybe one day earn a starting spot on the weakside. We won’t truly know if he was the right choice at pick #169 until a few seasons from now. I have learned to trust Gettleman’s selections until the tiny chance they prove you wrong, and I will do so with David Mayo.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander