2012 NFL Draft: What Rams-Redskins Deal Means for Carolina Panthers
The St. Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins have agreed to a blockbuster trade involving this year's second overall pick. St. Louis will be sending the highly-coveted selection to Washington for a nice heap. The haul will include three first-rounders (2012, 2013, 2014) as well as Washington's second-rounder from this year.
Washington will be using the selection on 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III as St. Louis will opt for quality and quantity with their side of the deal.
But what does this mean for the Carolina Panthers? Well, since the Rams have down dropped down four spots to the draft's sixth overall pick, it could mean quite a bit.
For one, it unofficially ends any possibility of Morris Claiborne slipping to the Panthers. Tampa Bay and St. Louis are ahead of Carolina in the first round. Both have a need at the spot, and both have already been linked to Claiborne. Regardless, the LSU corner falling all the way to Carolina was considerably unrealistic anyway.
The more intriguing and more realistic scenario, however, is the Rams grabbing the other LSU Tiger, Michael Brockers. B/R's Matt Miller has been pretty adamant about the Rams' interest in selecting Brockers over Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. So as of now, it seems likely the Panthers will not have at a shot either bayou product.
So what are their options if Brockers and Claiborne are indeed gone? Luckily for you, and maybe the Panthers front office if they are reading this, I'm here to help. In no particular order, here is a handful of other first-round options for the Carolina Panthers:
Option No. 1: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
This is the pick that's becoming more and more popular by the minute.
Memphis' Dontari Poe has found himself right into the thick of the first round after his phenomenal combine performance. Poe benched a ridiculous 44 reps, more than any other player at the event. The more impressive feat, however, was his 40-yard dash time. The 6'4", 346 pounder ran a startling 4.98, a time almost unheard for a man of his stature.
Poe was the combine's biggest winner and proved that with his freakish size comes some freakish athleticism. Some scouts have even compared Poe to Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, one of the NFL's most dominant lineman. With that being said, Poe could be the man to fill Carolina's biggest need.
There is no question the Panthers' defensive line, particularly the tackle position, has been very suspect.
Over the last three seasons, Carolina's run defense has ranked amongst the very worst in the NFL. They finished 22nd in 2009, 23rd in 2010 and 25th in 2011. Their pass defense hasn't been exactly great either, allowing a league-high 8.4 yards per completion. These are the type of numbers that indicate a team's lack of an efficient playmaker on the defensive line.
Perhaps Ron Rivera can mold Poe into the big run stopper the team has been sorely missing.
But the obvious red flag surrounding the Memphis product was his lack of production in college. In 2011, Poe recorded just 22 tackles and one sack along with zero forced fumbles. His numbers aren't exactly great and are even worse when you consider he played in Conference USA.
Option No. 2: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
When the Panthers selected Cam Newton with the first overall pick in last year's draft, they were entrusting their franchise in the hands of a huge question mark. Luckily for the Panthers, Newton was nothing short of incredible. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner displayed his throwing ability, his dangerous running attack and his winning mentality in perhaps the greatest rookie season in NFL history.
But with Steve Smith in the latter part of his career, Newton does need a legitimate No. 1 when No. 89 hangs it up. The team's current group of wideouts is decent at best but shows no signs of becoming "that guy" for Newton.
This is where Notre Dame's Michael Floyd could come in. Floyd, 6'3", 224, is widely considered the draft's second best receiver. In some minds, however, he is the very best pass catcher this class has to offer. And why not?
Floyd has passed every football-related test there is. He put up stellar numbers in college, performed extremely well at the combine and has consistently displayed the tools necessary to play the next level.
In 42 games with the Fighting Irish, Floyd racked up 266 receptions, 3,645 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air. He also ran an impressive 4.42 at the combine, just about warranting himself a call on day one of the draft.
His notable strengths include his strong hands, his good speed and his excellent vertical game. Some analysts have compared his game to that of Anquan Boldin's.
But with the good does come the bad. Throughout his collegiate career, Floyd has raised quite a few eyebrows. His run-ins with the law as well as his injury history could have teams backing away. With so many players suffering the wrath of the legal system, some front office people may not want to risk their first-rounder on Floyd.
In defense of Floyd, he can turn out to be one hell of a talent in the NFL—perhaps even more so than the presumed No. 1 wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
As we look at the NFL, we are looking at a quarterback's game. And now that the Panthers have finally reeled in a franchise talent in Newton, they should look to surround him with more weapons.
So is Michael Floyd the answer?
Option No. 3: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Draft standards usually forbid the selection of a guard within the top-10. This guard, however, is much different. David DeCastro of Stanford is easily considered one of the draft's safest prospects.
He is very athletic, exhibits nice footwork and is very intelligent. DeCastro plays with nasty mean streak and never seems to take a play off. The 6'5", 312 pounder also knows a thing or two about protecting big time quarterbacks. (See Luck, Andrew)
If Carolina opts for the talented guard at No. 9, it may raise a number of questions. But given their recent situation on the offensive line, he could end up paying huge dividends.
The team's right guard in 2011, Geoff Hangartner, has performed quite well. The problem is that Hangarnter will soon be testing the free-agent market, leaving the guard position in concern.
So if Hangartner does indeed go elsewhere, will it warrant a DeCastro selection? Will the front office go against the grain and grab an insurance policy for Newton?
Option No. 4: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
As I just stated, the Panthers offensive line will be a bit foggy going into the 2012 season. In addition to the guard spot being up in the air, the tackle position isn't exactly firm either.
The team's current right tackle, Jeff Otah, is a nice talent but cannot stay on the field. The former first-rounder has been limited to just four games over the past two seasons due to nagging knee and neck injuries.
Selecting Riley Reiff can certainly address that problem. He could play the right side for a while and eventually be moved over to the left side once the 32-year-old Jordan Gross exits.
Reiff has certainly emerged as one of college football's best players as a result of his impressive 2011 season. He's 6'6"and 300 pounds. He has been praised for his great fundamentals. Reiff has great footwork, bends very well and has already played in a pro-style offense.
The Hawkeye, however, did not measure well at the combine. Reiff's arm length came in at 33.25 inches, a number considerably small for an NFL tackle prospect. Some teams may even look at him as a guard due to his arm length.
Option No. 5: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Here's a selection that is a little out of the box and hasn't really been considered that much.
Boston College standout Luke Kuechly has certainly proved his immense amount of talent over his collegiate career. His 2011 campaign, in particular, was extremely exceptional. Kuechly led the nation with a bulky 191 tackles, averaging just about 16 tackles per game.
He also picked up a handful of 2011 hardware en route to his decision to enter the NFL. Kuechly grabbed the Butkus Award, the Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-American honors, which goes without saying.
But surely there are doubters. There are guys out there that don't want their teams to pick a "good tackler" with the ninth overall selection in the draft.
The appealing aspect of going with Kuechly, however, is his incredible likeness to a Carolina great. That Carolina great, you ask? Dan Morgan.
Just as Kuechly does now, linebacker Dan Morgan was always in the middle of just about every play. And for my wrestling fans, Morgan always played the game with Kurt Angle's three I's: intelligence, integrity and intensity.
If Michael Brockers is gone, who do you think the Panthers should take?
(For more on Kuechly and Morgan comparisons, here is a nice piece by James Dator of Catscratchreader.com.)
When I look at Kuechly's tape, I am quickly reminded of Morgan and the scary Carolina defense that once was. So why not go with the Golden Eagle?
For one, he would fill a need. It certainly isn't their largest need, but the team could use a strongside linebacker. With Thomas Davis constantly missing time and Dan Connor presumably on his way out, Kuechly could have an opening.
Adding Kuechly would also give the Panthers the best group of linebackers in the entire league. How could you argue against a crop that would include Kuechly, Jon Beason, James Anderson and hopefully a healthy Davis.
If Kuechly is the pick, he has to have the run-stopping ability. We all know of the defense's ground woes, something that must be addressed in order to form a playoff contender.
It's just a matter of if the front office is willing to go with that type of player. Although the linebacker spot isn't in need of immediate fixing, there is no doubt Kuechly would be the highest-graded prospect on the board when the Panthers' turn comes around in April.
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