Panthers 2013 Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Predictions for Carolina
The 2013 NFL draft is a few short hours away and the Carolina Panthers are making last minute preparations to assemble the best draft possible. If any team is under pressure to have a good draft it's the Panthers. Tonight will mark the debut of general manager Dave Gettleman as he puts together his ideal draft class and Ron Rivera will be in charge of taking these picks and producing a winning product on the field.
Considering the strength of their 2013 schedule, they cannot afford to have any weak links during the early rounds of this draft. For Rivera, he will need to have a good showing this season to maintain his job and a quality draft could help his cause.
Here is the final mock draft for the Carolina Panthers as the actual draft will be kicking off later tonight.
***Projections, scouting reports and rankings are from CBSSports.com.
Round 1, 14th Overall Pick: Kenny Vaccaro/S, Texas
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The temptation at this spot will be to draft a wide receiver but Dave Gettleman values defensive linemen, defensive backs and offensive linemen over receivers. While there is a possibility that they could go after D.J. Fluker, the number of pass-happy teams they are scheduled to play will demand that they beef up their secondary.
Enter Kenny Vaccaro.
This young man has been projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick, and he should be available when the Panthers are on the clock. With his selection, the Carolina defense gets an immediate boost as he will be a better option than Haruki Nakamura to line up alongside strong safety Charles Godfrey.
Vaccaro's coverage ability will benefit the Panthers when they meet up with the likes of Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick. Carolina needs a sure thing in their secondary and Vaccaro fits the bill perfectly.
Round 2, 44th Overall Pick: Kawann Short/DT, Purdue
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Granted, most of you are probably screaming that the offense needs to be addressed with this second-round pick. However, defense wins championships, and the Panthers will be doing themselves a favor by shoring up the interior of their defensive line.
In a recent interview, GM Dave Gettleman stated:
I'm already on record as saying big men allow you to compete. We're certainly going to look at the big hog mollies. We have an interest in those guys. Big guys at the lines of scrimmage are game changers.
At 6'3", 299 pounds, Kawann Short could be the pick for Carolina in Round 2. Different mocks have him projected as a late first-rounder or a mid-second-round selection. What makes this pick so intriguing is that it instantly makes the defensive line a lot stronger.
One has to think that adding him to a defensive line that consists of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy will make the Carolina defense far better than a season ago. Factor in the linebacker corps staying healthy and first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro keeping quarterbacks in check, opposing offenses are going to find playing the Panthers D a difficult task.
Short's best season was his junior year in which he had 54 tackles (17 for loss) and 6.5 sacks. He is a strong defensive lineman who can take away double-teams from the edge and make the jobs of both Johnson and Hardy a lot easier.
This pick makes sense because the Panthers have shown interest in Vaccaro and have worked out a number of defensive tackles. Plus, it falls in line with Gettleman's philosophy. By addressing the defense in the first two rounds of this draft, Carolina is in a great position to focus on their offense in the early rounds of the 2014 draft.
Round 4, 108th Overall Pick: David Quessenberry/OT, San Jose State
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Sticking to his philosophy of putting quality big men on the line of scrimmage, Gettleman will turn his attention to the other side of the ball and add some beef the offensive line. The goal with this pick is to help protect quarterback Cam Newton and open holes for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
David Quessenberry has been an under-the-radar offensive tackle but he had a good showing at the Senior Bowl as he was able to handle the pass rush well. With the health and effectiveness of veteran Jordan Gross becoming a growing concern and Byron Bell looking less and less like a long-term solution, Quessenberry would provide a solid presence who could eventually lock down one of the tackle positions.
Another plus for him is his ability to play the guard position and he could be a versatile asset on the line if the injury bug were to rear it's ugly head again. It's not a flashy pick but one that could pay dividends down the road.
Round 5, 148th Overall Pick: Sanders Commings/CB, Georgia
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The Carolina Panthers need to add a little more depth and perhaps groom a long-term player at cornerback.
Sanders Commings could be the best choice here. While he projects as a safety in the NFL, the Panthers could use him both in the event Captain Munnerly doesn't return after next season and as a backup to Charles Godfrey or Kenny Vaccaro, should the Panthers draft him in Round 1.
Commings has the ability to be a terrific pass defender at the next level as he displays excellent awareness and an ability to track the ball in flight.
Commings may not be available at this stage of the draft as a number of mock drafts project him going anywhere from early in the third round to late in the fifth. However, he would most likely be the last big corner still on the board when the Panthers select with the 148th pick.
The NFC South has a number of physical receivers, it would help to have a physical defensive back on the outside to neutralize them.
Round 6, 182nd Overall Pick: Conner Vernon, WR/Duke
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Many fans and some experts believe the Panthers need a wide receiver to one day replace longtime mainstay Steve Smith.
While there is some validation to that belief, that player will not be drafted this year. However, with all the inconsistencies surrounding Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams, the Panthers could be looking for some fresh blood at the position.
Conner Vernon is an excellent receiving option late in the draft and should provide Cam Newton a capable target inside the red zone. He doesn't have great speed but he does have decent hands which should allow him to compete with opposing defensive backs for the ball.
He led Duke in receiving the past two seasons and turned in an impressive senior year, catching 85 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. He has starter potential and could make a run in training camp at one of the last receiver spots.
Carolina may not keep Edwards after this season and newly signed free agents Ted Ginn, Jr. and Domenik Hixon are only signed to one year deals. Vernon provides the Panthers with a low-risk, high-reward opportunity.