Carolina Panthers 2011 Draft: How Each Pick Fits into Ron Rivera's Goals
With the lockout possibly ending sooner than thought with the secret meeting this week, we can finally start to think about how the 2011 Draft picks will help shape this upcoming season.
There is obviously a ton of hype and disagreement about Cam Newton, but what about the other guys drafted?
This slideshow will take a look at the short- and long-term outlook for each new Panther.
Cam Newton, QB
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There really has never been a more polarizing figure in Carolina Panthers history...and Cam Newton hasn't even put on pads yet.
Cam Newton is more and more likely not to start the season under center the longer the NFL continues the lockout. Next season should be all about learning the NFL system and maybe playing in some spot situations and garbage time.
Newton has been a winner no matter where he has played. This will be his toughest task to take on. If Rivera and Chudzinski are willing to work with his athleticism and talent, there is no reason Newton can't become a variation of what Michael Vick has become.
By Season 2, Newton should be the full-time starter.
Terrell McClain, DT
Terrell McClain is a disruptive defensive tackle. He was able to get into the backfield during his college career.
Last season, McClain was able to get into the backfield a lot, earning three sacks and five tackles for a loss. McClain is a speedier defensive tackle, which should help the Panthers immediately.
McClain will be given the opportunity to start. The best scenario is a rotation to keep him fresh and allow for him to learn. He is a true 4-3 defensive tackle and adding pressure to the quarterback will make him valuable.
McClain, if he can produce like he did at South Florida, should be a long-term solution to the Carolina Panthers' problem at defensive tackle.
He should certainly be a full-time starter by Season 2 and may make a Pro Bowl or two as a back up.
Sione Fua, DT
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Immediately following up Terrell McClain, the Panthers went for another defensive tackle. Sione Fua helped transform the Stanford defense into a top-20 defense against the run.
Fua is a big body who often takes two offensive linemen to cover. The Panthers should hope that this is indeed the case at the next level.
Sione Fua is the more pro-ready of the two defensive tackles and is a more of a pure run stopper. Fua will likely see more time on the field than Terrell McClain, because he is a classic running-lane-blocking defensive tackle.
Sione Fua played much better in his last season when he played as a nose tackle. Playing on Ron Rivera's 4-3 may not get the most production out of him long term.
Having the flexibility to change defensive fronts is something Rivera may not institute right away, but if he does, Fua could be a key component of that plan long-term. If not, Fua may end up leaving for another team after his rookie contract.
Brandon Hogan, CB
If not for the injury, Brandon Hogan may have been drafted higher. Although he comes with some off-field concerns, Hogan will likely be kept on a short leash.
If his quickness comes back after his ACL is fully healed, the Panthers may have found a steal in the fourth round.
Hogan will not be ready for the start of the season, when that happens, but may be healed up enough by the end of the season to play in nickel and dime packages or on special teams.
Hogan would be wise to take the season off and focus on getting back in shape for the 2012 season.
If Brandon Hogan can stay out of trouble, he can be a starting corner for the Panthers. By picking him up, drafting Cam Newton and signing Jeremy Shockey, Jerry Richardson and Ron Rivera have shown above all else they care about talent and Hogan has plenty of it.
Hogan also has plenty of athleticism and has shown he can make plays on defense. In three years, he totaled 8 interceptions and 24 passes defensed.
Kealoha Pilares, WR
Kealoha Pilares was a shock when picked up in the fifth round. Not because the guy can't play, but there were a number of more NFL-ready players on the board at wide receiver.
Pilares is quick and athletic, playing running back, wide receiver and return man at Hawaii. The biggest knock on Pilares is that he is inconsistent when catching the ball and has trouble with tight coverage.
There have been comparisons to Steve Smith in Panthers chat rooms. Beyond being a speedy punt returner, that is not the case.
Pilares should find a role as a spot slot receiver and as a kick-off and punt return specialist in his first few seasons.
Receivers that come from Hawaii's offense are hit or miss. It is so prolific that it overshadows real production.
Pilares may make his way into the starting line up long term if Brandon LaFell and David Gettis don't pan out, but it's not likely. Pilares has the look of being a special teams player for his career.
Lawrence Wilson, LB
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Lawrence Wilson is exactly the type of linebacker coaches hope for. Although he is a bit undersized, Wilson will not be afraid to put in hard work and hit someone.
Wilson has good reaction time and often finds his way to the ball, recording an astonishing 272 tackles in his last two seasons in Storrs. Wilson has been credited for being a strong overall linebacker who plays well against both the pass and the run.
Special teams play and being a backup linebacker who plays his way into the rotation is how Lawrence Wilson figures to see his action the first season.
Wilson is extremely intelligent and will pick up the defensive rather quickly. He will be able to adapt to an NFL defensive scheme in his first season.
With Thomas Davis' health a constant issue, Wilson may be long term insurance for him. Wilson has all the intangibles to be a starter in the NFL.
If he can add a little more size without losing some of his speed, Wilson will prove to be a late-round steal. In his third season, Wilson should be expecting to be a full-time starter.
Zach Williams, OG
Zach Williams is a versatile lineman who has seen time at center but projects better at guard, as he will be able to react better to the defense without focusing on the snap.
Williams, according to scouting reports, lacks a flexibility that will make battling defensive tackles difficult. He will likely be pushed around if he cannot become more balanced as well.
While an NFL team can never have enough offensive linemen, this is one who will likely not see time at that spot. Williams has special teams written all over him. There is not a scenario that doesn't include massive injuries where Williams makes the offensive line rotation.
Taking a flier on a late-round pick is nothing new in the NFL. Williams will likely not be strong enough or flexible enough to handle an NFL defense. While he may bounce around the league, Williams will not stick with the Panthers for long.
Lee Ziemba, OT/OG
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Lee Ziemba will again join Cam Newton's protection team. Ziemba is a great run blocker, getting off the line quick and exploding into his man but he is undersized.
Ziemba may fit best at guard, where he will be able to use his run blocking power to get directly into a defensive tackle.
Ziemba lacks in pass protection, though, which should not be as much of an issue with the Panthers as they are a heavy running team.
Ziemba may find himself a a backup and situational lineman in running situations but will need to develop better agility long term if he expects to start.
It isn't a huge deal, but having Ziemba will help transition Newton to the NFL and possibly keep him somewhat grounded.
With some better flexibility and agility, Ziemba could be a starting guard down the line. This is a long-term investment for the Panthers who would be wise to keep him around because of his physical style of play.