2012 NFL Draft: Second-Round Possibilities for the Carolina Panthers
As we get closer to the NFL Draft on April 26th, we've heard a handful of names connected to the Carolina Panthers' first-round selection.
Prospects such as Memphis' Dontari Poe, LSU's Michael Brockers and even Notre Dame's Michael Floyd have all gained their respective looks from the Carolina fan base.
But how about some second-round talent? Although the first-round pick, is well, the first pick, there is no doubting the value of the very next round.
So in much anticipation of the upcoming proceedings in April, here are some second-round possibilities for the Carolina Panthers.
Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
After meeting with Chandler Jones, Quinton Coples and Fletcher Cox, the Panthers are clearly looking to upgrade their pass rush. These meetings, however, are not the only indication of the team's desperate need on the defensive front.
Carolina's defense allowed 130.8 rushing yards per game this past season, ranking 25th in the NFL. They also ranked near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed, averaging 246.8 per. These numbers are clearly a product of the team's lack of a pass rush as well as its weak run defense.
If Marty Hurney and crew somehow end up passing on first-round favorites Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers, Clemson's Brandon Thompson could be the pick if he's available. Thompson, a relatively unsung hero in this class of defensive tackles, should be a very appealing option for Carolina in the second round.
The 6'2", 310-pound tackle has quite the skill set that should translate very well at the next level. He possesses great explosiveness, good strength and the ability to evolve into the big run-stuffer this team needs.
Thompson finished his 2011 campaign with 46 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Since the Panthers will probably snag Poe or Brockers with the ninth overall selection, Thompson does need some dominoes to fall in order to suit up in Charlotte.
Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
As I stated earlier, the Panthers have already met with Syracuse's Chandler Jones. In addition to their meeting with Coples, this is another tipping of their hand in which they are revealing their search for a presence on the line.
More specifically, their interest in Jones shows that they want a defensive end to line up across from Charles Johnson. They do, after all, need to get to opposing quarterbacks more.
The defense managed a measly 31.0 sacks in 2011, the eighth lowest total in the league. So there is a clear need for a more effective pass rush.
Picking up the Syracuse product could help that. The younger brother of the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Chandler is a defensive end who certainly should be on many radars come April.
Jones is a great hustle player that often exhibits nice vision, good upper strength and pure athleticism. He racked up 38 total tackles, 7.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2011. The redshirt junior also added two forced fumbles and an interception.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Since I'll be covering a few more defensive prospects, let's take a little break and go to the other side of the ball with some offense.
Prior to Cam Newton's arrival in 2011, no one in North Carolina wanted to hear about the Panthers' offense. The team struggled mightily in every offensive aspect of the game. They didn't have a reliable quarterback to pass the ball, they didn't have much in the receiving corps and even their dynamic run game took a long break during the 2010 season.
But once Newton threw on the NFL uniform, everything, and I mean everything, changed. After finishing last in just about every major offensive category the season prior, the 2011 Carolina offense simply took off under the leadership of their rookie quarterback.
They finished the season seventh in total yards, 13th in passing yards, third in rushing yards and seventh in points per game. There was no doubting the day-night change that occurred in Carolina under the quarterback in Newton and the offensive coordinator in Rob Chudzinski.
Despite the surprising results, however, the team needs another wide receiver. With the exception of the 32-year-old Steve Smith, Newton doesn't have another big time wideout to throw to. And since Smitty won't be around forever, Cam needs a guy with whom he can grow.
If Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina is still available for Carolina in the second round, he should certainly be in consideration.
Jeffery, at 6'4" and 229 pounds, has an incredibly promising skill set, making him a very desirable player in the upcoming draft. In three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery hauled in 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 600-yard receiving mark each year.
There is no doubt the Panthers must improve their defense in order to compete. But with the NFL evolving into a passing league, Jeffery, who could wind up as one of the game's top wideouts, would be quite an investment for an already potent offense.
The factor that may hold up this possible union is Jeffery's upcoming pro day. As of now, Jeffery is more likely to fall into the second round rather than being picked up late in the first. But if he runs a very good 40-time, that could change.
The biggest knock on Jeffery is his lack of breakaway speed. If he can hit a nice run during his pro day, I'm sure the Panthers will be among a handful of teams at the end of the first round that will be watching.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Sticking to the offensive theme, I'll throw in Ohio State's Mike Adams as a possible option. This isn't the most likely second-round option by any stretch, but Adams is not a guy we should just throw by the wayside.
Again, the Panthers offense does need a bit of tweaking despite their incredible 2011 campaign. In addition to the wideout spot, the front office could be looking to bolster the offensive line. Now that the team has their franchise quarterback, they have to protect him.
One of Carolina's current tackles, Jeff Otah, is a pretty solid player. However, Otah has played in just four games in the past couple of seasons, so the Panthers may want some insurance.
Adams, who stands at 6'8" and 320 pounds is a pure monster. The Buckeye is considered the fourth best tackle prospect in the draft, behind the likes of Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin.
The O-line may not be the biggest need, but Adams could turn out to be a nice "best player available" selection.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
It should be extremely evident that the Panthers will be heavily invested in drafting quite a few defensive prospects in April. But will they be willing to spend a pick on a guy with a boatload of off-field concerns?
That could be the question that will rattle the Carolina war room if cornerback Janoris Jenkins slips to the second round.
Jenkins, a North Alabama transfer, clearly possesses the right amount of tools to become a shutdown corner in the NFL. He has elite anticipatory skills, great awareness for the ball and is extremely solid in run support.
This is why he should be an appealing option for the team. Not only does he cover very well, but Jenkins is a relatively underrated prospect when it comes to his run defense.
In addition, Jenkins has already matched up with some NFL players during his time in the SEC as a Florida Gator. He has seen professional talent such as Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Alabama's Julio Jones and the aforementioned and soon-to-be NFL wideout Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina.
If Carolina believes his problems are behind him, Jenkins could pair up with Chris Gamble to make one of the league's best cornerback duos.
The only problem standing in the way would be the New England Patriots. If Jenkins can get past Cincinnati and Detroit in the first round, New England should be waiting for him when their two first-round picks come around.
Here are a few more names we may hear about leading up to April's draft.
Who should Carolina draft with their second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft?
Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
Hayward may not have been featured as much since he played for a lesser squad. But his ability as well as his leadership skills may intrigue Carolina.
Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma
According to B/R's Matt Miller, Fleming is the third best corner prospect in the draft.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill has thrown himself right onto every team's big board after his highly impressive combine performance. It is highly unlikely, however, the 6'5" speedster will slip into Round 2.
Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
Curry is another interesting pass rush option for Carolina.
Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
With Dan Connor out to Dallas and Jon Beason and Thomas Davis coming back from injuries, the Panthers may look to add some depth at the linebacker position. UNC's Zach Brown would be a nice little grab for any team in the second round.
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