Carolina Panthers: Final 7-Round Mock Draft
This is perhaps one of the best times for a writer who covers the NFL; the final mock draft of the year. The NFL will hold its annual draft later this week, and there is growing excitement among the 32 teams and fanbases. The Carolina Panthers have their needs like any other team and have been pitted in constant debate over which position will be addressed in the opening round on Thursday night.
Until then, Carolina fans will have to suffer through one final mock draft.
For those familiar with the mock draft roundup, the picks I will be presenting are similar to the ones listed in that particular article. There are a few changes, but the overall strategy remains in place. The Panthers may utilize the draft to fix the offense, although one or two picks may be designated for the defensive side of the ball.
Here it is in all its contested and debatable glory—the Carolina Panthers' final mock draft of the 2014 offseason.
Round 1 (28th Overall): Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Here is a pick Matt Miller believes will be the 28th overall selection.
Carolina needs a No. 1 receiver who can grow with Cam Newton. However, the position was addressed in free agency, whereas the offensive tackle position was not. Since protecting Newton will be important to the success of the offense, Morgan Moses is the pick here.
He can play at either left or right tackle, but it may come down to training camp to determine which position is better suited for him. The other side will most likely be manned by Byron Bell.
The addition of Moses should provide quality protection in the passing game and help open running lanes in the rushing attack. Carolina has three proven backs who know how to pick up yards and reach the end zone, so Moses' effectiveness in this aspect of the game will be vital.
Whether or not the first pick for the Panthers is Moses, an offensive tackle taken first should suggest that the first pick for the team on Day 2 is a wide receiver.
Round 2 (60th Overall): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Preferably, Jordan Matthews would be the ideal choice here. However, there is reason to believe he won't make it to the Panthers in the second round.
There is an alternative.
Davante Adams has slowly emerged as an excellent second-round receiver, and he should be available when the Panthers make the 60th overall pick. Adams may not have the size that fellow wide out Kelvin Benjamin has (6'1", 212 lbs), but what he lacks in size he makes up for in ability.
Adams is slightly faster, has a better vertical leap and he can play special teams. It should be noted that he only fielded two punts in college, but he has that kind of ability. It's understandable to believe Adams' production was a by-product of playing in a potent Fresno State offense, but he caught 100 passes in both seasons, registered over a 1,000 yards in both and scored at least 14 times each year.
The potential and ceiling for this young man is ridiculously high.
Adams still needs to fine-tune his game, but when he does, he could be an excellent wide receiver in the league.
He should figure to be a great asset in an offense with Newton throwing to him and having a blend of veterans and talented teammates to help mold him.
Round 3 (92nd Overall): Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Assuming there isn't a run on cornerbacks early in the draft, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is the logical fit here. Carolina needs help at cornerback, and with the current roster, it's anyone's guess as to who will line up on the outside of the secondary.
Jean-Baptiste is a big-bodied corner standing at 6'3" and 218 pounds. He can potentially shut down receivers he is tasked with covering, and if he can jam them on press coverage, he is most likely to win the battle.
CBSSports.com's Rob Rang's player comparison from his scouting report:
Compares To: Brandon Browner, Seattle Seahawks - Like Browner, Jean-Baptiste combines size, ball skills and surprising fluidity to intrigue as a super-sized cornerback. Browner only re-emerged as an NFL player in recent years, however, after languishing in the CFL in part due to a lack of straight-line speed inconsistent effectiveness as an open-field tackler. Should the light turn on for Jean-Baptiste, he could stick in the NFL. Without greater reliability as a tackler, however, his time in the league could be short.
His talent would be a welcomed addition to a unit that needs a serious upgrade to the cornerback position.
Further aiding him is the talented pass rush of the defense. If a quarterback is pressured and cannot find a receiver, he may try to force a pass in Jean-Baptiste's direction. This method worked well for the Panthers in 2013, and having an upgrade on the outside should help create turnovers.
Round 4 (128th Overall): Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama
When the draft enters Round 4, Dave Gettleman will have to decide if he wants to continue addressing needs or adding depth. Selecting Anthony Steen is a choice that would serve both purposes. Carolina needs help on the line, and Steen fits perfectly into Gettleman's strategy to build the line with "hog-mollies."
At 6'3" and 314 pounds, Steen takes up a lot of real estate and could be a handful for opposing linemen. His selection could probably wait until the next round, but since the Panthers are picking late in each one, it could be worth the gamble to take him earlier than his projection.
Steen is a hard worker and served as the starting offensive guard for Alabama for three years. He plays to the whistle and is able to hold his blocks. Some scouts feel he can play center, and since there is not much depth at the position behind Ryan Kalil, Steen could provide an option if something happens.
The issues with the Carolina offensive line are not limited to just the tackle position. There could be a few tweaks on the interior as well.
Round 5 (168th Overall): Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
This could be the selection that becomes the project for the coaching staff to develop. Brandon Coleman has great size (6'6" and 225 lbs), and if he can be developed into a quality NFL receiver, he could be the perfect third-down/red-zone receiver.
Despite his upside and potential, Coleman still needs to learn how to be physical with defenders. He relies too much on using his size to catch passes, but the lack of physicality could result in him losing a lot of battles. Another flaw he possesses is his inability to gain separation. This is why he could be ideal on short-yardage or red-zone situations.
As noted, he will be a project, but the reward could be huge.
Rob Rang has compared him to Jon Baldwin and Dane Brugler has suggested he has shown glimpses of being a Josh Gordon clone. Either way, if Coleman can be mentored, coached and developed correctly, he will be a steal in Round 5.
Round 6 (204th Overall): Justin Britt, OT, Missouri
Another big lineman for Gettleman's consideration.
Justin Britt could be an offensive tackle the Carolina Panthers can develop as a backup and groom for a future as a starter or rotational player. He plays low to the ground and is able to line up at left tackle. The latter will be interesting because he could be called upon to play both sides.
Much like Steen, Britt has good size and could be asked to play offensive guard as well. Given the Panthers' track record with linemen at the position last year, adding a person like Britt wouldn't be a bad idea.
Rob Rang offered his insight on his player comparison assessment:
A year ago the former Colorado Buffalo caught my attention as a gritty pass-blocker with an impressive punch many were underrating, presumably because of the team's struggles to win games. Britt is taller than (David) Bakhtiari and because of Missouri's sudden improvement against SEC competition, he's less likely to be overlooked. If healthy, he's a potential Day Three sleeper who could surprise as a contributor early in his pro career.
There are some injury concerns regarding him, as he suffered an ACL tear in later 2012 and a foot fracture earlier that same season. His durability will play a role in where he is selected, and that could result with him dropping to Carolina late in the sixth round.
Round 7 (225th Overall): Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
While the Carolina Panthers' draft may have opened with an offensive tackle, it will close with a wide receiver. Jalen Saunders will be the small receiver who can use his speed to get separation and utilize a variety of moves to get around defenders. What is even better is he can return punts and kicks.
His small frame (5'9" and 165 lbs) may leave him vulnerable to huge hits, but this Carolina staff knows the value of having a little guy around who can make plays. Much like former Panther receiver Steve Smith, Saunders may be used primarily as a return specialist early in his career. With any luck, he can be a difference-maker on offense, too.
Saunders' 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash and 34-inch vertical leap should make him appealing to the Panthers if he is available early in the final round. Fortunately, Carolina has the New York Giants' pick in the seventh, and that could be good enough to grab Saunders.
Player and draft information courtesy of CBSSports.com.