With the 2012 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, fans and analysts alike are busy updating their player rankings and modifying their mock drafts in anticipation of the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Panthers will send an army of coaches and scouts to the combine in order to gather information and further develop an opinion on players that could help improve the Panthers in 2012 and beyond.
With the rise of social media in full swing, fans also are able to share an opinion on potential draft picks.
Content sharing platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter allow for constant discussion of potential draft picks. We asked our own digital followers their opinions going into the combine.
In a poll on the Carolina Panthers Facebook page, 91 percent of fans said the Panthers should focus on defense in the upcoming draft, while a paltry five percent voted for offense.
The results are understandable. The Panthers featured an explosive offensive that ranked seventh in the league last season but ranked 28th in defense after allowing 6,042 yards.
“We have to focus on defense to help the run stopping,” Jamaal Washington commented on the Panthers’ Facebook page. “The first pick should be a defensive lineman. We also need to draft another cornerback….Our offense was good enough to win games, but it was our defense that gave us those losses.”
“We need to get pressure up the middle and we need to be able to stop the run,” Facebook fan Devin Shackleford added. “I think our corners are OK. Cornerbacks can look bad when the QB has all day to throw.”
“The Panthers need a presence on defense,” G. Tyler Peters wrote on the Panthers’ Google page. “Someone that has high energy and is going to be disruptive, like (defensive end) Melvin Ingram from South Carolina.”
Improving the defensive line and secondary is a common sentiment among Panthers fans.
“No matter how great our offense may be, we have to focus on stopping other teams’ offenses, otherwise we are simply playing catch-up all the time,” Blake Canterbury responded on Facebook.
In another poll, fans were asked what position the Panthers should focus on with their first-round draft pick. More than half replied that a defensive lineman should be the goal, while 23 percent thought the team should strengthen the defensive backfield with an elite cornerback prospect.
“Try to trade for a mid-late first-round pick to give us two picks in the first round. I would go with (wide receiver) Alshon Jeffery and (cornerback) Dre Kirkpatrick if they’re available,” Chuck Allen said on Facebook.
“If (wide receiver) Justin Blackmon is available take him, you can’t pass up that talent,” added Ryan Stewart. “If not, trade down a few spots and take Melvin Ingram, Dre Kirkpatrick, Alshon Jeffery or (defensive tackle) Devon Still.”
Many fans have suggested that the Panthers should trade their first-round pick (eighth or ninth overall, depending on the outcome of a coin flip with the Miami Dolphins on Friday) for a late first-rounder and an additional second- or third-round choice. Several have suggested that the Panthers can afford to move down several spots in the draft and still secure a cornerback or defensive tackle.
Trading down has worked out well for the Panthers in the past. In 2007, the Panthers had the 14th overall pick in the draft but traded it to the New York Jets in exchange for the 25th and 59th overall picks, which netted them two Pro Bowlers in linebacker Jon Beason and center Ryan Kalil.
A chance to improve the secondary while adding another offensive weapon is certainly attractive, especially if both players have the impact that Beason and Kalil have had.
“We could trade back and see if we can get two (picks); in which case that addresses cornerback and wide receiver….Hopefully (cornerback) Janoris Jenkins and either (wide receiver) Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright or Alshon Jeffrey,” Andrew Hammond said on Facebook.
Stocks are expected to rise and fall at the combine, and for some fans, opinions will change. As the 2012 NFL Draft draws closer, expect new targets to emerge and some favorites to slip.