General manager Marty Hurney made waves spending a lot of owner Jerry Richardson's money on free agents and drafting Cam Newton, No. 1 pick overall last year. You wouldn't know it from the team's 6-10 record, but the moves were successful on the whole, and the Panthers entered the offseason ready to contend again in a division that's well-known for worst-to-first transformations.
What would Hurney do in the draft to get Carolina farther from worst and closer to first?
The Panthers are willing to invest more at linebacker than any other team in the league
After doling out over 100 million dollars in contracts to starting linebackers Thomas Davis, Jon Beason, and James Anderson, Hurney decided that wasn't enough resources to throw at the position and spent the ninth overall pick on linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Kuechly had one of the highest floors of any prospect in the draft, but the pick was puzzling unless the team thinks Thomas Davis is done. Davis did tear his ACL for the third time in three years in 2011, so that is a good working theory to explain the pick. Still, linebacker isn't the first position you think of when you consider the most important positions to building a winning team.
The Armanti Edwards experiment is all but over
Edwards represents maybe one of Hurney's worst-ever draft moves when he traded a 2011 second-round pick to New England to take Edwards in the third round of the 2010 draft. The converted quarterback fizzled in his rookie year, and the team took a receiver with similar skills in the fifth round (Hawaii's Kealoha Pilares). Edwards fizzled again last year, and the team took a speedy slot/return man in the fourth round (Arkansas's Joe Adams). Without a miraculous turnaround in training camp and the preseason, Edwards is as good as gone.
But it hasn't scared Hurney off of taking small school players
Edwards likely would not have gotten nearly as prominent on the national radar without the huge upset of Michigan at the Big House as the quarterback of then Division I-AA team Appalachian State. Obviously, the translation of his talents to a new level of football didn't take. Hurney didn't worry about being bitten by this again when he took Amini Silatolu or Josh Norman.
Silatolu, the Panthers' second-round pick, played left tackle at Division II Midwestern State, but the Panthers are moving him inside to guard. He is a mauler who could start right away. Norman played at FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) Coastal Carolina, but he proved himself enough on film and at the East-West Shrine Game to merit a fifth-round pick. With the Panthers problems at cornerback opposite Chris Gamble, he too could start at some point this year.
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