Carolina Panthers: Players Who May Suffer from 2012 NFL Draft

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Carolina Panthers: Players Who May Suffer from 2012 NFL Draft
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Remember back in 2007 when the Carolina Panthers took USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett with their second-round pick? (Yeah, I know it's painful for Panthers fans, but stick with me here.) 

And during that very same draft, ESPN had a little guy named Keyshawn Johnson covering the event alongside the likes of Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. Johnson was a member of the Panthers at the time and did commend the team's front office for making the pick.

After the announcement of the pick, Keyshawn said, "This is a great pick. And the reason why it's a great pick is because we need another wide receiver. We need that third guy."

And in perhaps the most ironic event in the franchise's history, Johnson was cut just three days later to make room on the roster for Jarrett. The very same guy that Johnson was ready to welcome as his new teammate was the same guy who was responsible for his subsequent release.

The NFL Draft is full of aftershock. For the college prospects, the day marks a new beginning, a different lifestyle and the start of their professional careers.

But what about the other side of it? What happens to Keyshawns? How about the NFL veterans who end up losing their jobs to these young whippersnappers?

The unfortunate truth about any draft is that players have their spots taken away by the infusion of talent coming from the college level. Whether it is due to age, inability or ineffectiveness, there's always a replacement breathing down the veterans' necks.

And for a group of current Carolina Panthers, 2012's NFL Draft may do just that. 

Here is a list of Panthers who may be negatively affected by possible 2012 draft picks.

 

Captain Munnerlyn, CB

Despite his extremely encouraging "can-do" attitude, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is not cutting it for Ron Rivera's defense.

Munnerlyn does not show any indications of being a legitimate corner in the NFL. He gets burned relatively often and just looks plain lost most of the time on coverage. 

His ineffectiveness at the position has perhaps made him the weakest link on one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL last season. In 2011, the Panthers allowed the most yards per passing attempt with 8.4 and the ninth-most passing yards per game, giving up 246.8 per.

With guys like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman seeing Carolina twice a year, the Panthers most look for an upgrade to start across from Chris Gamble at cornerback.

Although Rivera may award Munnerlyn another shot at the starting job, prospects such as Jayron Hosley, Alfonzo Dennard, Dwight Bentley or even Janoris Jenkins could fall to the Panthers in the second round and knock him off.

 

Sione Fua and/or Terrell McClain, DT

There's no doubt the defensive tackle spot has been quite the need for Carolina over the past few years.

In the last three seasons, the Panthers' defense has averaged amongst the very worst of the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They relinquished 130.8 yards per game in 2011, 123.8 in 2010 and 124.8 in 2009. Each of those totals ranked 25th, 23rd and 22nd in the NFL, respectively. 

So where could these disappointing numbers stem from? The defensive line, of course. More specifically, the defensive tackle spot is really to blame.

Last year's starting tackles, Sione Fua and Terrell McClain, didn't exactly impress anyone during their rookie campaigns. 

The two combined for just 28 tackles, one sack and zero forced fumbles in 23 games with McClain playing in 12 games and Fua in 11.

Sure, 2011 was their first year in the league. And it should take a little time for players, especially at this position, to develop in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Fua and McClain, however, the Panthers can't afford to sit back at the defensive tackle position. With the New Orleans Saints suffering a huge loss in their head coach Sean Payton, Carolina may very well have a shot at the NFC South's division title this upcoming season.

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Although he is doing so here, Terrell McClain did not have much to celebrate about in 2011.

They have a dynamic offense behind the likes of Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. The only major problem surrounding this squad is the small, but concerning amount of holes on defense—two of those at the tackle spot.

Marty Hurney and the rest of the front office must improve the liability that is the middle of the defensive line. Possible 2012 draft picks who could provide them with that help include LSU's Michael Brockers, Memphis' Dontari Poe and Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox.

Each are relatively appealing options and may spell the end for both Fua's and McClain starting chances. We should also see where veteran Ron Edwards may come into play here.

 

Greg Hardy, DE

Speaking of the defensive line, Greg Hardy could be the next out of a job come the 2012 season. 

For the past couple of years, Panthers fans have been fed a bunch of "this guy's got potential" stuff about Greg Hardy. However, that the Panthers cannot wait any longer on the man they call "The Kraken."

In his two NFL seasons, in which he played 31 of the team's 32 games, Hardy has chalked up just four sacks and one forced fumble. I wouldn't call that a sign of an efficient pass rusher.

Unfortunately for Hardy, his lack of production could lead the front office into investing the ninth overall pick in North Carolina Tar Heel Quinton Coples.

Coples has posted some great numbers in his four years over at Chapel Hill and is widely regarded as the 2012 draft class' top pass rusher. The UNC product has also already met with the Panthers, perhaps indicating some writing on the wall for Hardy.

 

Thomas Davis, LB

Out of all the players on this list, Thomas Davis is the least likely to see his starting job taken away from him in 2012. But given his devastating injury history, the Panthers may opt for Luke Kuechly with the ninth pick.

After tearing his ACL three times in as many seasons, Davis may lead the team into drafting an insurance policy or even a replacement for him. Add that to Jon Beason's recent Achilles injury and the loss of Dan Connor to Dallas, and the Panthers may have a pick in Kuechly.

Kuechly is easily a top-10 talent in this draft by evidence of his gaudy statistics, countless NCAA honors and his recent and very impressive combine performance. His presence could allow Rivera to become rather crafty as he could devise a good number of sets on defense.

In their 4-3, the team would be able to utilize Beason, James Anderson, Davis and possibly Kuechly. 

Although he may be a fan favorite, "TD" may lose some snaps on the field if the front office decides to go with arguably the most effective collegiate linebacker of all time.

But again, I find this scenario to be unlikely. Even though the Panthers have met up with Kuechly, he's most likely a dark-horse candidate for the first-round selection.

 

Jeff Otah, OT

Just as his teammate Davis, Jeff Otah is another talented but unreliable option for the Carolina Panthers.

Since Otah has only played in four games over the past two seasons, perhaps Hurney will opt for an offensive lineman worthy of becoming his eventual replacement.

 

Jimmy Clausen, QB

The Panthers will be looking for a backup quarterback who can play a similar style to Cam Newton in the upcoming draft. If they get one, Jimmy Clausen could be traded or, more likely, cut.

The chance of him becoming the third-stringer is relatively non-existent as the team just re-signed Derek Anderson.

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