6'5" 324 lbs, 84" wingspan
College: University of Regina
Draft Projections: 5-FA
I know waiting this long to address the defensive line might be confusing to some, but not to me. I think Ron Rivera wants to give it another go with Fua and McClain, and see how Ron Edwards responds coming off injury. Those three are decent enough, and could make Jerry Richardson a little more comfortable addressing other needs early in the draft.
So I'm okay with waiting until the later rounds to select a nose/defensive tackle, especially if Akiem Hicks is still on the board.
He very well might not be, as his recent play in Canada's East-West All Star game has his stock heading north and more teams are starting to take notice of the big fella. He's been projected to go as early as in the fifth round to the Washington Redskins to going undrafted. If the Panthers manage to land him in the seventh, they could end up with the steal of the draft.
Hicks was originally recruited by LSU, but recruiting controversy sent him packing up north to play in Canada for two seasons. Slipping into obscurity he has fallen out of the hearts and minds of NFL scouts, but is starting to play his way back in.
The big man dominated his senior season with the Rams, tallying six sacks, two fumbles and 42 tackles in just eight games.
He has tons of raw potential, and the size that the Panthers desperately need to clog up the holes in the defensive front. Edwards is the bigg at 6'3" 315, and might have slimmed down to come back from his triceps injury. The other two, Fua and McClain, are relatively small at 6'2" 308 and 6'2" 297 respectively. If the Panthers want to run more of a 3-4 like the rumors indicate, they'll need to bulk up the middle of that line and Hicks is a perfect fit for it.
While he's not necessarily NFL-ready yet, a year or two to develop behind a veteran like Edwards could turn him into a very good player for the Panthers. I wouldn't even be opposed to taking him in the sixth if they don't feel like he'll fall to them.