Carolina Panthers Mock Draft 2.0: Final 7-Round Predictions for 2012 NFL Draft
The Carolina Panthers improved by four games in 2011 when they went 6-10 and Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, became the first rookie to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. Last season, Newton threw 21 touchdown passes and became the first quarterback in NFL history with 14 rushing touchdowns in a single season.
Not surprisingly, Cam Newton was also the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year.
In the 2012 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will shift their focus to the defensive side of the ball, where they were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season.
They are also likely to add a new toy for Cam Newton to play with in the form of a legitimate No. 2 receiver.
Read on for my Carolina Panthers Mock Draft 2.0, with significant changes to the original incarnation.
Round 1: No. 9 Overall Selection: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
In my Carolina Panthers Mock Draft 1.0, I had Carolina selecting LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers to shore up one of the weakest parts of the Panthers defense after they finished 25th in the NFL against the run in 2011.
Kuechly is the best linebacker in the 2012 NFL draft, and he will be the top player on the board at No. 9 if he is not taken sooner.
However, the Charlotte Observer reported that the Carolina Panthers sent head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney to meet with University of North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples in Chapel Hill just three days before the 2012 NFL draft.
Kuechly is an absolute tackling machine, finishing his collegiate career as the ACC's all-time leading tackler, and he will give the Panthers one of the most feared linebacker corps in the NFL, playing alongside Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and James Anderson.
The Carolina Panthers had one of the softest interior defensive lines in 2011, but with the return of Ron Edwards, Andre Neblett, Frank Kearse, and last year's starters Simone Fua and Terrell McClain entering their second seasons, the Panthers do not need to risk a first-round pick to improve their interior D-line in 2012.
Alternate Selection: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
Round 2: No. 40 Overall Selection: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
In my original mock draft, I had the Carolina Panthers selecting cornerback Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama (via Florida).
However, the Panthers thought highly enough of cornerback Brandon Hogan to select him in Round 4 of the 2011 NFL draft, and he will get an opportunity to start across from Chris Gamble in 2012 after being injured for most of last season.
Cam Newton needs a new toy, and in my updated Mock Draft 2.0 I have the Carolina Panthers selecting South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Alshon Jeffery was once a top-15 prospect whose draft stock fell along with his precipitous drop in production in 2011 when South Carolina was a revolving door at the quarterback position. But, he still possesses the skills that made him a first-team All-American in 2010.
Jeffery has the big body, the athleticism and the hands to be a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver for the Panthers across from Steve Smith, and he will develop into a surefire No. 1 target for Cam Newton over the course of the next few seasons.
With his unique ability to make the impossible catch look routine, Jeffery could become the next Cris Carter or Brandon Lloyd, or anywhere in between.
Alternative Selection: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Round 4: No. 104 Overall Selection: DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal
In my original Carolina Panthers mock draft, I had Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney selecting Oregon outside linebacker Josh Kaddu with the Panthers' fourth-round pick.
However, with the addition of Luke Kuechly to solidify the linebacker corps and provide insurance against Thomas Davis' unprecedented recovery from a third ACL reconstruction, the Panthers still need to solidify the interior defensive line.
With their third selection of the 2012 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will select DaJohn Harris, a defensive tackle from the other USC—Southern Cal.
DaJohn Harris gets off the ball quickly and powerfully, he is strong against the run and he spends a lot of time in the backfield.
Harris also has a solid repertoire of secondary/counter moves, though he needs to be coached up on technique and timing, as they often fall short in execution when he does not set up his move first.
DaJohn Harris is an opening-day starter who can work his way into any NFL defensive-line rotation, save perhaps the New York Giants, and he will improve the Carolina Panthers' most porous unit as soon as he steps off the plane at Charlotte's Douglas International Airport.
Alternative Selection: Chase Minnifield, CB/KR, Virginia
Round 5: No. 145 Overall Selection: Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson
In my Panthers Mock Draft 1.0, I had Carolina selecting tight end Rhett Ellison out of Southern Cal with their fifth-round selection.
However, with the cornerback position yet to be addressed in Panthers Mock Draft 2.0, I have the Panthers picking Clemson's Coty Sensabaugh with the 145th overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft.
Coty Sensabaugh is an extremely hard worker and a fighter who overcame the odds to turn himself into Clemson's top cover cornerback after nearly having to walk on to the Clemson Tigers' football squad as a lightly-recruited high school player.
Sensabaugh also posted impressive numbers at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, where he ranked in the top four in the 40-yard dash, the cone drill and the vertical leap.
Sensabaugh will compete with Captain Munnerlyn and Brandon Hogan for the starting cornerback spot opposite Chris Gamble, and his straight-line speed also makes him an intriguing option as a punt returner.
Sensabaugh is a great value pick in Round 5 who will add much-needed depth to the Carolina Panthers' secondary and whose outstanding work ethic will help him develop into a productive long-term starter with the proper coaching.
Alternative Selection: Bryan Anger, P, California
Round 6: No. 180 Overall Selection: Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State
In my Carolina Panthers Mock Draft 1.0, I had Carolina selecting Michigan wide receiver Mario Hemmingway to add depth to the Panthers' receiving corps, though he will have a difficult time breaking into the rotation with the potential addition of Alshon Jeffery and the return of Steve Smith, David Gettis and Brandon LaFell.
In my updated Mock Draft 2.0, I have the Carolina Panthers selecting the All-Big 12 offensive tackle Levy Adcock from Oklahoma State.
Adcock protected Brandon Weeden in the Cowboys' pass-heavy offense and he will add depth to the Carolina Panthers' injury-prone offensive line, where he can play the tackle or guard position.
Several draft boards have Adcock projected as a late second or third-round selection, though DraftTek has him falling to the Panthers with the 180th selection. If he is still there, coach Rivera and Marty Hurney have the opportunity to scoop up another great value pick.
Alternative Selection: Mario Hemmingway, WR, Michigan
Round 6: No. 207 Overall Selection (Compensatory Pick): Brett Roy, DT, Nevada
I am sticking to my Mock Draft 1.0 guns, in which I had the Carolina Panthers drafting Nevada defensive tackle Brett Roy with their compensatory sixth-round selection.
Roy began his collegiate career with the Wolfpack as a safety before moving to linebacker, then defensive end and, finally, defensive tackle, where Sports Illustrated named him an All-American in 2011.
Roy also offers versatility as an athlete who has played nearly every defensive position in the past four years.
At 6'3" and 275 pounds, Roy is an undersized defensive tackle, though he has the motor and the potential to provide additional depth to the Panthers' defensive line.
Alternative Selection: Jacory Harris, QB, Miami
Round 7: No. 216 Overall Selection: Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech
With the 216th pick of the 2012 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will select Virginia Tech's all-time leading receiver and Charlotte, North Carolina native, Jarrett Boykin.
I also selected Boykin with the Panthers' final pick in my original mock draft.
Boykin underperformed at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine when he was bothered by a hamstring injury, but he is a good route-runner with above-average hands, so why not give the hometown kid a shot?
Boykin will likely be a practice-squad player in his first season due to the Panthers' depth at wide receiver, but he will provide Carolina with some insurance at the position if David Gettis or Brandon LaFell go down due to injury at some point in the season.
Alternative Selection: Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech