Carolina Panthers Pass Up Big Names to Select Division II OG Amini Silatolu

Jimmy Grappone@cltsportshubCorrespondent IApril 28, 2012

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the 39th pick of the 2012 NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama.

And in a follow-up move that surprised nearly everyone, the Carolina Panthers drafted a Division II player of their own with the 40th overall pick, Midwestern State offensive guard Amini Silatolu.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney passed on defensive tackles Devon Still, Kendall Reyes and Jerel Worthy; wide receivers Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and Ryan Broyles; and every cornerback not named Captain Munnerlyn to pick Silatolu.

According to Hurney and Rivera, Silatolu is a meany on the football field and he plays with a nasty streak that is apparent on film whether it is at the Division II level or in the SEC West (via Charlotte Observer):

"This was the guy we wanted to get.” — Panthers' GM Marty Hurney on Amini Silatolu

The Panthers may have also tipped their hand to opposing teams that they plan on running the ball in 2012 as much or more as they did in 2011 when they were third in the NFL in total rushing yards by drafting a road-grading blocker in Silatolu.

The Panthers were at their best in 2011 when they had close to 35 carries in a game and threw 25 or fewer passes, and they could attempt to win with the exact same formula in 2012.

What's Left in Rounds 4 Through 7

While the defense and special teams are areas where the Carolina Panthers need to improve the most in the offseason, Hurney and Rivera took a calculated risk that they will be able to fill positional needs in the later rounds and either through trades or home-grown development.

I mocked Southern Cal's defensive tackle DaJohn Harris and Clemson cornerback Coty Sensabaugh into my final pre-draft predictions for the Carolina Panthers and still see those two as viable options in the fourth and fifth rounds.

Chase Minnifield, the All-ACC cornerback from Virginia, and second-team All-SEC wide receiver Joe Adams from Arkansas, are available, too, and either player could be viewed as a replacement for the Panthers' punt returner, Armanti Edwards, who averaged just 5.5 yards on 32 punt returns in 2011.

The Carolina Panthers are also without a punter after releasing Jason Baker in the offseason and they may consider picking one in the last two rounds.

There is a family connection between Georgia punter Drew Butler and coach Rivera: Butler's father, Kevin, was the kicker for the fabled Super Bowl XX champion '85 Chicago Bears and a teammate of Rivera's.

The Bulldog punter is one of only a few being discussed as potential draft picks—Jacksonville drafted Cal punter Bryan Anger in the third round—so don't count him out if he's still on the board when the Panthers make their final selection of the 2012 NFL draft.


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