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2012 NFL Draft: Is Trading Down the Best Option for the Panthers?

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2012 NFL Draft: Is Trading Down the Best Option for the Panthers?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A day ago, it didn't seem far fetched that Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe would still be available come the Panthers' time to pick in the second round—40th overall. 

Following a stunning performance at the combine, however, Poe has skyrocketed up draft boards in a matter of hours. The Panthers have been in search of a defensive tackle that showed his athleticism as well as ability to hold up against a double team. 

Besides Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Poe now possibly ranks as the biggest winner coming out of the combine and certainly the strongest, with the top bench press of 44 reps. 

Although it was common knowledge that Poe moved well for an anchor at 346 lbs, teams weren't prepared for the quickness he showed and a sub-5.00 in the 40-yard dash. He all of a sudden seems much more versatile and a better fit for the 4-3 defense than previously thought. 

This revelation has begged the question: Would it be best for Carolina to trade down and pursue an option like Poe whom they could draft 10 to 20 spots lower than their current drafting position? It certainly seems so at this point. 

While I'm no sucker for a jaw-dropping combine performance, Poe has made me re-analyze whether or not LSU's Michael Brockers is really the team's best option. He's likely to be picked ahead of his current talent level because of his potential, but defensive tackles pan out about as well as the average first-round quarterback, making drafting on potential a huge risk. 

Poe is arguably just as talented in every phase of the game at this point. He holds up against the run nearly as well and neither player is an above average pass rusher. Consider also that there are a handful of teams looking to move up and the Panthers are sitting pretty. 

Should the Panthers trade down?

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Poe should go no sooner than 20th to Tennessee, giving the Panthers a chance to collect another team's first and second-round picks in exchange for the ninth overall. Of course, if an elite talent like Morris Claiborne slips to Carolina, trade negotiations could be dropped immediately. 

The Panthers aren't getting particularly good value otherwise and ninth overall is a little high for the talent at the team's positions of need. Trading down to the low teens would allow them much higher value, which is what the draft is all about; it's something that has allowed the Patriots to keep showing up in the Super Bowl over the past decade. 

Options in the low teens would be Poe, for one, as well as guard David DeCastro, receiver Michael Floyd, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and tackle Jonathan Martin. 

In the second round, this would allow the Panthers to add another talented defensive tackle, receiver or cornerback, depending on which position they address with their first two picks.

This flexibility would be in the best short and long-term interest of the franchise and if they draft smart, it could be a move that elevates them into the playoffs next season. 

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