Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina's first draft pick this season, Star Lotulelei
Draft Selection: First Round, 14th pick
Stats: 107 tackles (21.5 for loss), seven sacks, four forced fumbles
Projected Role in Camp: Starter
It can be argued that the Carolina Panthers drafted the best defensive player in the draft. If it were not for the heart abnormalities caught by an echocardiogram during this past winter's combine, Star Lotulelei may not have fallen to the Panthers in the first round.
Despite other teams being scared off by Lotulelei's medical results, doctors gave him the go-ahead to play, and the Panthers didn't waste any time selecting him.
If he turns out to be the caliber player he was at Utah, Carolina will be set for a long time on the defensive front. Lotulelei's presence should help both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy be more disruptive off the edge, as he will take away a lot of double-teams from them.
Lotulelei is efficient in stopping the run, and he could help give the Panthers a much-needed boost in rush defense. He will be tested this year, as Carolina will meet running backs like Steven Jackson (Atlanta), Marshawn Lynch (Seattle), Frank Gore (San Francisco), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay) and the always dangerous Adrian Peterson (Minnesota).
Needless to say, Lotulelei and company will have their work cut out for them. However, those matchups were the reason the Carolina front office valued a talented interior defensive lineman over a wide receiver or secondary help.
Lotulelei won't be the only rookie on the defensive line this year. He will be getting some help from a talented defensive tackle out of Purdue.