Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Carolina Panthers' Top 3 Picks
The Carolina Panthers' top three picks in the 2014 draft class should address all of their major needs. However, how the team chooses to address them will be an entirely different situation. There has been endless debate about which position the Panthers value the most, and while wide receiver and offensive tackle are the two most likely positions, there is a chance Carolina drafts the best player available.
Of course, that does not guarantee it will shore up one of the two critical needs on offense.
The next few slides will discuss the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Panthers' draft strategy over the course of the first three rounds. This is not a means to build up a player's draft value or criticize another, but rather it's an opportunity to analyze the implications involved with their selection.
Here are the best- and worst-case draft-day scenarios for the Carolina Panthers through the first three rounds.
Round 1 Best Case: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
It may seem unnecessary to draft a wide receiver who doesn't offer too much in size, but Brandin Cooks has proven he has the tools to be a playmaker in the NFL and could very well be the all-around best wide receiver late in the first round. Drafting him could determine how the Carolina Panthers will utilize their offense in the fall.
Paired with Jason Avant in the slot position, Cooks will give Cam Newton a shifty and fast receiver who is capable of picking up chunks of yardage. Plus, Avant can serve as a mentor to the young man and teach him the ropes of playing the position at the pro level. The speed that would be present on the inside would open things up for Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood on the outside.
Why It's the Best Case
Essentially, the Panthers will address a pressing need and be able to mold him into a star receiver who can potentially grow with Newton over the course of his career. Cooks' selection could be a blessing because he could very well go in the middle of the first round.
His impressive combine did wonders in boosting his draft stock, and he could be considered an opening-round steal if he fell to 28th overall. There are plenty of positives Cooks can offer Carolina, and despite his size, he could be a future Pro Bowl receiver in the league.
Round 1 Worst Case: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Despite being a need of the Carolina Panthers, Jason Verrett could be the worst thing to thing to happen to the team if he were selected in Round 1. Verrett is a capable cornerback and could shine as a pro, but he lacks the size (5'10", 189 pounds) that defenses crave at this level. Additionally, he needs to improve his tackling technique.
Throw in his durability issues and he would be a giant question mark in terms of how long he is on the field. The Panthers know too well about what effect injuries can have on a team. It seems unlikely a first-round selection would be used on someone who could be a liability in the future.
Why It's the Worst Case
Verrett isn't the top corner in his class, and if Carolina decided to address the position first, it's unlikely he is the best player available. That being said, Kyle Fuller would be the ideal pick at cornerback if that is how the Panthers wanted to play it. Fuller is better than Verrett and could drop to 28th overall.
Regardless, the Panthers really need a wide receiver or an offensive tackle as their quality of talent on offense will determine how successful the team is in 2014. Defensively, Carolina is set and can grab a corner later in the draft.
Round 2 Best Case: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Cyrus Kouandjio could be that player who takes an unexpected slide down the draft boards. Initially, he was a first-round prospect (and still is in some circles), but his history with a knee injury could deter teams from taking him early.
If by some miracle (and it would take that for him to fall to 60th overall) he falls to Carolina in the second round, he would be an excellent pickup to play left tackle. That's assuming the Panthers still need an offensive tackle.
He is a bit choppy sliding back into pass protection, but when his feet are set, Kouandjio is very patient and effective when it comes to protecting the passer. It helps that he is quick off the snap too. He has a lot of upside to be a first-round pick and enough to be picked up early in the second. However, an unexpected tumble could allow the Panthers to strike gold within the first two rounds of the draft.
Why It's the Best Case
Aside from what was already mentioned, it's likely teams may be scared off because of concerns about Kouandjio's knee. Carolina is one of a handful of teams that need upgrades on the offensive line, and the team's position in the draft would warrant the risk.
Even if he is not the guy to protect Newton's blind side, he can still play right tackle, and if the Panthers opt to draft a "hog-molly" in both the first and second rounds, the offense will become very strong up front and allow it to focus on wide receiver.
Round 2 Worst Case: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Assuming the Carolina Panthers are shopping for a wide receiver in this round and there are no better prospects available, Jarvis Landry could be the team's second choice of the 2014 draft. While he compares to Eric Decker and has the ability to beat defenders in tight coverage, he doesn't possess the home run threat type of speed the Panthers may want.
Of course, the need to grab a wide receiver early may warrant his selection, and if that does happen, he will need to be a productive member of the offense. There are many things as far as his intangibles are concerned that make Landry a concern as a late second-round pick.
Why It's the Worst Case
Being regarded as the 91st-best overall player in this year's draft class, per CBSSports.com, doesn't help Landry's cause. There should be better receivers available at 60th overall; one of them possibly being Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt.
Matthews has better size and is faster than Landry, plus he turned in a better combine. Landry could make for a good third-round pick, but at late in the second round and the many needs of the Panthers, he could come off as a desperation pick.
Round 3 Best Case: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Stanley Jean-Baptiste is the ideal defensive back the Carolina Panthers need in their secondary, and he should be available in Round 3.
Jean-Baptiste is a big corner, measuring in at 6'3" and 218 pounds. His abilities allow him to jam receivers, and he is capable of breaking off on short and intermediate routes. This was evident during the Senior Bowl. He should be on the radar of any team needing a cornerback in the early stages of the middle rounds.
Carolina has not had the luxury of employing a defensive back of his size from the outside, and he could thrive in a secondary that features competent veterans Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud and Charles Godfrey.
He could help himself by improving his physicality and tackling skills. Jean-Baptiste has been viewed as a player who can be converted into a safety, but it's doubtful the Panthers would do that based on who is on the current roster. Despite his flaws, he has drawn comparisons to New England's Brandon Browner.
Why It's the Best Case
The addition of Jean-Baptiste should complete the process of filling all of the team's major needs and give the Panthers another contributing player. If the first three picks develop into solid starters, Dave Gettleman and his staff will have scored high marks for this draft.
Cornerback may not be as pressing a need as wide receiver or offensive tackle, but it's a position that cannot be overlooked early in the draft.
Round 3 Worst Case: Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
There are so many possibilities in the third round. It would seem foolish for Carolina to target a position that really isn't a pressing need at this stage of the draft. Ed Reynolds may be the prototypical safety scouts look for in the draft, but it's likely the Panthers will ensure all of their needs are addressed first.
Reynolds is great in coverage and is just as effective in defending the run. Talent-wise, he has all the tools to be a great NFL safety. He has a nose to be a difference-maker, as he helped Stanford stave off an upset to the David Fales-led San Jose State Spartans.
Why It's the Worst Case
Injury concerns and character issues.
Reynolds missed the 2011 season due to a knee injury and has had his share of on-field problems, as he was ejected from a game in 2013. His aggressive nature causes him to lead with his helmet a lot, and that kind of practice will get him flagged in the NFL.
Another reason why he would be the worst-case scenario for this round is due to the Panthers' needs. Defensively speaking, it makes sense for the front office to pursue a cornerback, as the secondary is set with veterans Harper and DeCoud being signed in free agency.
Reynolds is gifted, but he would not be the right fit for Carolina in Round 3.
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