Now that the business of Nike's new NFL uniforms is out of the way, we can refocus on the 2012 NFL Draft.
Just ask the Panthers' General Manager, Marty Hurney, or their owner, Jerry Richardson.
After all, the 2011 NFL Draft went pretty well for the Panthers when they selected Cam Newton as the No. 1 overall pick and they spent a pretty penny last summer re-signing the key players they selected in previous drafts.
Carolina Panthers: 2012 NFL Mock Draft
With the 2012 NFL Draft just three weeks away, the Panthers are already on the clock to determine which defensive player they will select with their first pick and which remaining players best fit their needs.
While putting this mock draft together, I assessed the Panthers' needs in order of highest priority versus the most likely available talent.
Some of my picks can contribute on regular teams right away while others' value lies in their upside and participation on special teams.
Potential New Panthers
Most Panthers fans know the first two names on the list, but you may draw a blank until the final slide in which I have Carolina giving a warm homecoming to a former local high school star who just might make the team.
Also, the NFL released its NFL Draft order, including compensatory picks in rounds four-through-seven, which compensate teams for losing players in free-agency in the previous year based upon the FA's performance for his new team.
The Panthers received the final compensatory selection of the sixth round thanks to Matt Moore.
The Clock is Ticking
Speaking of Moore, the Miami Dolphins just made their selection with the eighth overall pick.
The Panthers are on the clock. And with the ninth pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select...
Michael Brockers (90) is a mass of humanity at 6'5", 322 lbs, and that is exactly what the Panthers need.
The Carolina Panthers finished 25th against the run in 2011, giving up over 130 yards-per-game on the ground.
Besides losing their top two linebackers, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, to season-ending injuries in the first two games, the Panthers were pushed around all over the place in the middle of the line.
At times, the interior line, anchored for most of 2011 by then-rookies Simone Fua and Terrell McClain, was so porous that it looked like the jayvee line getting pushed around by the varsity.
The Panthers may have found a couple of interior linemen who can hold down the fort a bit better than their predecessors in Frank Kearse and Andre Neblett, but Carolina needs a game-changer in the middle of the defense.
That game changer is Michael Brockers from LSU.
Though the Panthers could also do well by picking Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox with the ninth overall selection, Brockers is huge and athletic, and if all he does is occupy a couple of offensive linemen on every play, that frees up Beason, Davis and James Anderson to do what they do best: make tackles.
The only other selection that makes sense for the Panthers would be if Morris Claiborne's stock suddenly dissipates or if Carolina trades up in a move that would send Jonathan Stewart and a draft pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the fourth overall pick.
Panthers fans, get ready for Brockers and start praying he turns out to be a better pro than the last great LSU defensive tackle and former No. 1 overall draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Glen Dorsey.
The Panthers need another physical, athletic cornerback to play opposite Chris Gamble, and they may be able to get first-round talent out of a second round pick in Janoris Jenkins.
Jenkins, whose collegiate career began at Florida before being derailed for non-football reasons, is considered one of the most talented cornerbacks in the draft and could be a steal if he falls to the Panthers.
As an added bonus, Jenkins could step in for Armanti Edwards at the punt returner position on the first day of camp.
Jenkins, 23, has reportedly been open and candid with NFL executives about his past troubles and life events, including his recreational drug use and potential baby-mama-drama since he's sired four children by three different women.
Drafting a young player with a troubled past is always risky-business and Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson is about as conservative as they come, but assuming Jenkins is focused on football, he is the type of player defensive coordinator Sean McDermott needs to bolster the secondary.
As for prolific cornerbacks off the field, Rivera coached father-to-nine-by-six Antonio Cromartie to several productive seasons in San Diego.
Though he played last season at North Alabama, Jenkins' humbling transfer from the SEC to Division II football and his willingness to admit to and discuss his mistakes publicly seems to show a propensity for growth, and he could end up becoming one of Jerry's kids, after all.
Josh Kaddu (56) can contribute to the Panthers immediately on special teams and could be a long-term option at the Sam linebacker position.
The Carolina Panthers' SAM linebacker, Thomas Davis, is attempting to do what no other NFL player has done before in coming back to play after tearing his ACL for the third time.
Though the former first-rounder out of Georgia recently told Panthers.com he is optimistic about his rehab and his return to the team in 2012, Carolina needs to start thinking about other options for the strong-side backer position.
Oregon's 6'3", 239 pound Josh Kaddu is bigger and faster (4.58 at the NFL combine) than Davis (4.60) was coming out of college in 2005 and he has the size and athleticism to be a productive starter in the league.
He is a great value in the fourth round.
Kaddu was a first-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2011 and he played next to Clay Matthews' less famous younger brother, Casey Matthews, at Oregon.
He also played against the Panthers' quarterback, Cam Newton, in the 2011 BCS National Championship game.
Most scouting reviews show that Kaddu is still a raw talent with a ton of ability and a lot to learn when it comes to playing in the NFL, but he can help bolster the Panthers' struggling coverage teams immediately.
With some coaching-up and a bit more bulk, he can also become an effective pass rusher while he works on the rest of his game.
Cam Newton threw nine of his 21 touchdown passes to tight ends in 2011 as Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey combined to catch 82 passes for 995 yards a season ago.
With Shockey's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, recently stating that Shockey will be listening to offers from several teams and will most likely not return to the Panthers in 2012, Marty Hurney needs to find another big, physical receiving tight end for his quarterback.
At 6'5" and 251 pounds, Southern Cal's Rhett Ellison fits the mold of a young Shockey who is tough to bring down and fights for extra yardage after the catch.
Olsen will return as the Panthers' top receiving tight end, but the Panthers can solidify the position by selecting Ellison regardless of Shockey's status with the team in 2012.
Junior Hemingway (21) is a tall possession receiver with good hands and excellent field awareness.
I must be greedy because I really wanted to pick South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery in this mock draft.
However, the Panthers' needs at cornerback greatly outweigh their needs at receiver, so I had to go with defense in the second round.
Not to worry, though, because there is value to be found all the way down here in the sixth round where I have the Panthers selecting Michigan's Junior Hemingway to join the Panthers' receiving corps.
Hemingway will not beat out Steve Smith and he will not be taking returning No. 2 receiver David Gettis' or rapidly improving No. 3 receiver Brandon LaFell's spots anytime soon, but he may be able to give Legedu Naanee a run for his money at the fourth receiver slot.
While at Michigan, Hemingway played for three seasons with the ultra-elusive Denard "Shoelace" Robinson, and he became adept at finding holes in the defense while his quarterback scrambled all over the backfield.
Though Cam Newton is much more of a pocket passer than Shoelace has ever been, he is one of the best young scramblers in the game and is likely to continue to use his feet to get out of trouble in his second season.
A receiver who can get open when a play is breaking down is invaluable to a mobile quarterback, and at 6'1" and 225 pounds, Hemingway provides Newton with a big target to move the chains.
With the final pick of the sixth round in the 2012 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will use their compensatory selection to draft Brett Roy out of the University of Nevada.
Roy is an ultra-productive, if undersized, interior lineman at 6'3" and 275 pounds, who began playing college ball as a safety before moving to linebacker, then defensive end and finally settling at the defensive tackle position where he was named first-team All-America by Sports Illustrated.
If he gains another 25 or 30 pounds, the Panthers may have to move Roy to nose tackle when they go to an odd defensive front to complete the full transformation.
Roy has the motor and the potential to provide much-needed depth along the interior line, and he can provide versatility as an athlete who has played nearly every defensive position in the past four years.
Roy could end up playing like another undersized lineman, Hall of Famer John Randle, or he could turn out like Chris Hovan who, according to Wikipedia, now plays for the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL.
Either way, he will at least look like Randle and Hovan in his Ultimate Warrior face paint, even if he never plays like either.
The Hokies' Jarrett Boykin (18) makes an upfield move after catching a pass against Clemson.
Virginia Tech's all-time leading receiver, Jarrett Boykin, had a productive college career for a wideout playing in Hokie coach Frank Beamer's run-first power offense.
He is also a hometown kid from local football powerhouse Butler High School—Brooklyn Decker's alma mater—in Matthews, NC, a suburb of Charlotte.
Boykin was bothered by a hamstring injury at the NFL combine and did not perform particularly well for the scouts, but the 6'2" and 217 pound receiver has the gamesmanship, route discipline and solid hands to play at the next level.
If drafted by the Panthers, Boykin will likely make the team as a practice squad player or a special teamer, but he would not be the first ever Panther to come off of the practice squad and win a regular position.
The whole town of Charlotte will be pulling for the kid from Matthews to make the team as the Panthers' final selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
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