The Carolina Panthers have a few very pressing needs on defense, most notably in the secondary. Logic dictates that they would draft a defensive back in the fifth round, but once again Carolina has surprised the masses by selecting an inside linebacker. A.J. Klein was brought into the Carolina organization with the 148th overall pick after being a three-year starter at Iowa State.
While Klein should be a quality backup, his selection undoubtedly will raise a few eyebrows, as the Panthers were expected to target a player who could help defend against the pass. While Klein is good at stopping the run, he isn't that great in pass coverage.
Carolina used this pick to add depth to their linebacker corps and add a player who can play special teams. Charlotte Observer writer Joe Person summed it up thusly:
Klein is, in essence, Jason Phillips' replacement. Backup LB, special teams player.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) April 27, 2013
While Klein isn't the best linebacker in pass coverage situations, he is very capable of intercepting passes and returning them for the score; a feat he accomplished four times in his career. He won't be a starter and could find himself spending a good part of his career as a backup or role player, but he can make plays when called upon.
Klein is a fierce competitor and carries the pedigree of being a proven linebacker as highlighted by his collegiate accolades in which he shared the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011. The player he shared the honor with: Carolina's own Frank Alexander.
Dave Gettleman's mission is to turn the Carolina defense into a competitive and talented unit regardless of who is on the field. A talented linebacker like Klein could be his diamond in the rough, especially if he plays with the same intensity he showed in college.