If it's one thing we're going to notice in this Carolina Panthers mock draft is the fact that GM Marty Hurney has a lot of work ahead of him in 2012.
One of the biggest issues rearing its ugly head is the fact that the team is currently $9.6 million dollars over cap, and the team must shrink this number before March 13.
As if the above isn't enough reason for any GM to stock up on additional Tylenol and antacid medication, the team is expected to deal with said cap space with some serious internal "restructuring"— Thomas Davis, I'm looking your way sir.
Regardless of what happens though, there is still plenty of potential excitement coming out of the 2012 NFL draft, so let's take a look at who could be the next Carolina Panther.
Round 1: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
6'5", 306 pounds
Last year the Panthers grabbed themselves a pair of third round tackles (Sione Fua and Terrell McClain ) hoping to invigorate the D-line. But instead of invigoration, the Panthers' interior pass rush was exhausting and ineffective, which was also a cause for the poor play in the secondary—we'll get to that in a minute.
The growing consensus is the Panthers will indeed go with Brockers for several reasons:
1. Brockers has the size and athleticism to be a potential difference maker
2. Brockers can play as a NT, DT, and also a DE which could lend some serious flexibility for the Panthers coaching staff
3. Brockers is just as solid against the run as he is against the pass
Some may disagree with this positional pick and hail for a corner instead, but keep in mind that if your D-line can't get to the quarterback your secondary will look much worse than they are, so in my opinion, this pick makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't, however, rule out Carolina reaching for LSU's Morris Claiborne if available.
Round 2: Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
6'0", 185 pounds
If the Panthers can score themselves a quality DT then the idea here is hopefully grab an elite corner as a solid one-two punch.
Again, let's keep something in mind. It's easy to say Carolina's corners were terrible, but when the opposing QB has all day to throw, the covering corner is eventually gonna picked apart. Chris Gamble, and Captain Munnerlyn weren't all that bad, but the Panthers could still use an elite corner out of the draft.
Chase Minnifield is the type of corner that could easily start right away for Carolina and sure up this secondary. He is well versed in man coverage, particularly in press-man—something the Panthers desperately need—and he is also well versed as a zone specialist.
Oh yeah, and he's the son of Cleveland Browns legendary corner, Frank Minnifield...just saying.
If the Panthers grab an elite corner such as Minnifield, it would also allow them to move Munnerlyn to the nickle position, which would significantly improve this team's secondary.
The Panthers know they must add a big target on the outside for QB Cam Newton if they are to legitimately compete in 2012 an beyond, and free agency isn't the answer.
Brian Quick, on the other hand, could be the answer.
Aside from his mammoth presence on the line, Quick is also a solid route runner with some pretty sticky hands.
The thing I like about Quick is his reliability as a receiver. He is very good at using his size to his advantage, and is fast enough to significantly damage corners regardless if they are pressing up front, or playing him with a cushion.
This guy isn't known for dropping balls, and could easily be the addition Carolina is looking for who could also take attention away from Steve Smith.
Round 5: Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas
6'3", 235 pounds
Another issue that must be dealt with is the outside linebacker position, and the Panthers can't afford to wait any longer than the fifth if they want to settle through the draft.
Three issues here: Speed, health and depth.
- Heath and Depth: Jon Beason is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and Thomas Davis is more of a liability now than he is an asset—the Panthers may even cut him loose according to The Charlotte Observer—if anything at all, Robinson would certainly bolster the Panthers depth chart.
- Speed: The Panthers just didn't have enough speed from their linebacker corp in 2011 which is why they were burnt by the passing game—Robinson is the type of OLB that can play anywhere on the field and has more speed and skill than most other OLB in his class.
The point here is that Robinson could very much wind up being a steal in the fifth round if he's available. If not, the Panthers could also look at Pittsburgh's Brandon Lindsey.
Round 6: Andrew Datko, OT, Florida
6'6" , 321 pounds
At this point, I believe the Panthers will be on the prowl for a good OT that can primarily add depth to this already thin line, while also offering some promise as a potential future starter.
Undrafted rookie Byron Bell failed to impress last season, and the only other true tackle is veteran tackle Jordan Gross who is 31—yeah, I think the Panthers might wanna draft another tackle.
Datko is one of the those players who is seemingly flying under the radar, so a grab here, would certainly be a "value pick" for Carolina.
Datko is a position player. As a pass defender, Datko is the sort of player who can easily defend by allowing the rusher to come to him, which could also help create escape lanes for the already highly mobile Cam Newton.
Datko is also an above average run blocker who plays the run in a similar fashion. His real value comes with the duality of being a superb cut blocker and combo blocker, so there is plenty to work with developmentally here.
Round 7: Nick Provo, TE, Syracuse
6' 4", 249 pounds
What I would personally like to see in the seventh round is the Panthers find a potential developmental tight end that possesses enough talent and potential to be incorporated in the offense one day.
Nick Provo already has the prototypical build that is seen in today's pro tight ends, but his track record is also a great notice to consider.
[box]" ... Provo, a semifinalist for the 2011 John Mackey Award, set the Syracuse single-season record for receptions by a tight end in 2011 with 51 catches as well as the SU career record for receptions by a tight end (92). With an active streak of 24 consecutive games with a catch, which is fifth all-time at SU, he ranks second on the Orange's single-season and career record list for receiving yards by a tight end (537 in 2011 and 1,027 career). Provo earned Phil Steele All-BIG EAST First Team Midseason honors, and had seven touchdown receptions this season, which is tied for sixth nationally among tight ends..." - CBSSports.com[/box]
Have a player in mind that you would like to see Carolina draft? Leave your idea below and get the debate going guys.