The Carolina Panthers might not have made the sexy pick, but they didn't make the wrong pick.
By selecting Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly ninth overall, they landed a great player while avoiding a potential pitfall in Quinton Coples. The Panthers had been rumored to be heavily interested in the North Carolina defensive end in the days leading up to the first round. Coples would have been a mistake for a Carolina team that needs players without character questions at this critical juncture in building a Super Bowl contender.
While I feel the Panthers missed a chance to potentially hit a home run with the selection of wide receiver Michael Floyd, they land a player who will serve as the cornerstone of their defense for years to come. With the amount of talent available in this draft on the defensive line, I thought the Panthers would look to this area with their first selection.
A bit of surprise came over me when commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium and announced that the Panthers selection was the all-time leading tackler in Boston College history. That surprise quickly disappeared when I remembered reports from the NFL combine that the Panthers "loved" Kuechly. There was also a great sense of relief in avoiding the headache-inducing Coples.
While thoughts of adding the Notre Dame receiver Floyd were tempting for many—myself included—the Panthers were sensible in building on the side of the ball that needed more attention. The Panthers believe in their ability to succeed offensively with the talent currently on the roster, along with being able to find nice complimentary pieces later in the draft at receiver.
The Panthers are not as deep at linebacker as some might believe. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are coming off of serious injuries, making the selection of a linebacker as practical as a defensive lineman would have been. Ron Rivera has a history of developing defensive tackles (see Luis Castillo), and perhaps Rivera can see the same potential in a young player like Terrell McClain.
To sum up the Panthers first-round pick, while not perfect, the Panthers receive a corresponding solid grade from me with their first pick, with a 'B' overall on the selection of Luke Kuechly.
What grade do you give the Panthers first round selection?