NFL Draft 2013: 10 Studs Who Could Make Immediate Impact for Carolina Panthers
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As the Carolina Panthers attempt to grow into a playoff contender, they should begin looking at potential 2013 draftees who can make an immediate impact.
After finishing 7-9 last season, there are still some holes that need to be filled to help Cam Newton lead this Panthers squad to a Super Bowl one day.
Most notably, the Panthers front office will want to address the following areas: defensive tackle, offensive line, secondary and wide receiver.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei may be the best defensive lineman in the draft.
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Perhaps the biggest need for the Panthers is at defensive tackle. Star Lotulelei is exactly what the Panthers need in the middle, and he has a chance to be a star, as his name insists.
Lotulelei is considered the top overall player in the 2013 draft, according to ESPN Scouts Inc. He weighs in at 320 pounds and is a very powerful nose tackle.
In his senior season at Utah, he recorded 11 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Lotulelei will likely be one of the top picks in the draft, but if he slides, the Panthers will definitely be paying close attention.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Johnson is a tall, versatile offensive tackle.
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The Panthers must also strengthen their offensive line, protecting franchise quarterback Cam Newton. Lane Johnson would be a great pickup to shield Newton's blind side.
Johnson is the third offensive tackle on ESPN's list of top players in the draft.
The 6'7" athlete actually began as a tight end and defensive end before OU converted him to offensive tackle. He is quite athletic and has great size. Also, Johnson can play on both the left and right sides.
With Luke Joeckel likely going as one of the very first picks this year, this leaves Carolina to choose between Johnson and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher if they fall to No. 14.
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Floyd can be the anchor of the Panthers defensive line.
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Florida's Sharrif Floyd is one of the best fits for the Panthers. In a draft that is filled with great defensive linemen, Carolina would be smart to take advantage.
He is the No. 2 defensive tackle and No. 7 overall player in the draft, according to ESPN.
Floyd helped anchor a Florida defense that was one of the best in 2012, and he was a third-team All American. Perhaps his greatest strength is that he can play multiple positions on the defensive front.
The Panthers could use this bulky defensive lineman, and they should look his way if Lotulelei comes off the board quickly.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones is the top outside linebacker in the draft.
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For those who were able to catch some of Georgia's games in 2012, it is easy to see why some scouts are raving over Jarvis Jones.
Though linebacker may not necessarily be the Panthers' top need, pairing Jones with Luke Kuechly would make for quite a linebacking core.
Jones is the top outside linebacker, according to NFL.com, and has the skill set to be an incredible player in the league. He led the nation in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (7) in 2012.
The one drawback about the stud is that he suffered a neck injury at USC before transferring to Georgia. Even with that, Jones would be worth the risk for Carolina if he falls to the Panthers.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson would fit in nicely in Carolina.
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Another great fit in Carolina would be Missouri's Sheldon Richardson.
He was one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC during the Tigers' first season in the conference.
Richardson is No. 10 overall on ESPN's list as well as the No. 3 defensive tackle. What scouts love about him is his footwork and agility. In 2012, he had 75 tackles, the most by any interior lineman in the conference, earning him second-team All-SEC honors.
Richardson has the athleticism to make some big plays for the Panthers if they choose him.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Carolina should take Milliner if he falls.
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As a member of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, Dee Milliner was magnificent. He is one of the best players in the 2013 draft.
Milliner is the No. 3 player and top cornerback in this year's draft, according to NFL.com.
With the Tide, he recorded 54 tackles, two interceptions and broke up 22 passes. Milliner was a first-team All-American and knocked down two passes in the BCS National Championship Game.
It is very unlikely that Milliner will slip very far, but if the Panthers see an opportunity to trade up for him, they should strongly consider doing so.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Patterson would give Newton a much-needed new target.
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As Steve Smith gets closer to retirement, the Carolina Panthers really need to add another talented wide receiver.
Cordarrelle Patterson would be the best option at receiver for Carolina.
On NFL.com, Patterson is rated as the top wide receiver and the No. 10 overall best player.
He is one of the most versatile players in this draft. At Tennessee, Patterson set the school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. He also had 10 total touchdowns—five receiving, three rushing, one on a punt return and another on a kickoff return.
Patterson is excellent at running routes and brings so much to the table on offense and special teams that the Panthers could use.
Eric Reid, S, LSU
Reid would greatly help the Panthers secondary.
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In last year's draft, the Panthers would have loved to have gotten their hands on Mark Barron.
This time, the Panthers have a shot to avenge themselves by picking up Eric Reid.
Reid, who is the No. 2 safety on NFL.com, has great size at 6'2".
He compiled 91 tackles for LSU in 2012, knocked down seven passes and made two interceptions. His length and aggressiveness will make him one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Though it could possibly be considered a reach at No. 14, Reid would make an impact right away at free safety for Carolina.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin was marvelous with Geno Smith at WVU.
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West Virginia's Tavon Austin is a name that most Panthers fans would love to hear come draft day.
ESPN has Austin as the No. 3 wide receiver in the 2013 NFL draft.
He totaled 1,932 yards from scrimmage with 17 total touchdowns (12 receiving, three rushing and two in the return game) in 2012.
Austin is a very fast and elusive receiver who could do well with Cam Newton. However, he is only 5'9" and would be a reach with the team's No. 14 pick.
The Panthers could make a deal to try and pick up Austin later in the first round or possibly early in the second round. Otherwise, they could look to Baylor's Terrance Williams or Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Vacarro has a good all-around game.
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Lastly, the Panthers could go after Kenny Vaccaro of Texas. He is a very talented safety, and strengthening the secondary would be smart for Carolina.
He is listed as ESPN's top safety and the No. 6 overall player in the draft.
In 2012, he had 92 tackles, seven knocked-down passes and two interceptions, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors in the process.
Vaccaro is strong, athletic and could be used as a nickelback.
The secondary is something that Carolina must improve on. Vaccaro would be a good pickup with the No. 14 pick.