Star Lotulelei to Panthers: How Does DT Fit with Carolina?

Charles EdwardsContributor IApril 25, 2013

October 4, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) celebrates a fumble recovery during the first quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers held a mid-round first-round pick.  What they got was a player who could have gone in the top five.  After waiting patiently for nearly two hours, Carolina was able to draft stud defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the 14th overall pick.  Call it a steal.  Call it luck.

The Panthers will gladly take the pick.

Entering the draft, there was speculation about who the Panthers would draft as earlier reports revealed interest from Carolina concerning Tyler Eifert.  While the idea was met with a combination of ridicule and acceptance, all those fears were put to rest when Lotulelei's name was called by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Dawn of a New Era

The Panthers already boast a defense that has double-digit sack masters in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.  They have arguably one of the best linebacker units led by last year's AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in Luke Kuechly.  Now, they have a Star.

Lotulelei should be able to provide the Carolina defense with an element it has been lacking for awhile as the rush defense has struggled as of late and applying pressure from the middle was almost non-existent had it not been for the efforts of Dwan Edwards and his 6.5 sacks last year.

Now, the Panthers have a line that should feature Johnson, Lotulelei, Edwards and Hardy.  Offensive coordinators are going to have to find ways of stopping four talented linemen from blowing up their backfield and disrupting plays.

Considering how talented the Panthers rivals are in the NFC South, having Lotulelei fall to them is a dream.  Fears about opposing rushing attacks will not seem as intimidating because if everyone plays the way they are expected to, running the ball will not be much of an option.

While Lotulelei only comprises just a piece of the puzzle, their is plenty of room for Carolina to really upgrade their defense and make it one of the best in the league.


How Lotulelei Affects the Rest of Carolina's Draft 

The Panthers have four more picks, assuming they don't acquire more before the draft ends.  They should have options in the second round and, as mentioned earlier, would be in a good place to really upgrade their defense.

However, there are plenty of quality wide receivers still available and Carolina could be tempted to take a chance on bringing in a playmaker who can take double teams away from Steve Smith and give Cam Newton another weapon on offense.

Looking for secondary help makes the most sense, as it would complement the selection of Lotulelei and instantly make the Panthers formidable within their own division.

It's still early but having Lotulelei as the newest member of the Carolina Panthers makes general manager Dave Gettleman's debut a solid one.