With the NFL combine upon us and ending shortly, most First Round talent is already being sewed into a projection that most would see similar. When the combine ends most players will use their last work outs at each individual pro-day, then follow those up with interviews and any other last minute questions or concerns NFL teams may have prior to the April Draft.
Following the coin toss on Friday to decide the fate of a few teams in their order of draft pick, Carolina was left with the Number 9 overall pick in the First Round of the NFL Draft. Still a top ten selection overall, I would have loved to see the Panthers picking at 8. Just one difference in spot indeed, but to me in this instance it could be the difference in a few names i will mention and explain further in this column.
With several positions needing to be filled with productive players, Carolina looks ready to pick the best available Defensive prospect when it is their time on the clock. Not likely to be an interior defensive lineman, nor a defensive end unless a star is still available. The defensive backfield seems to be a position that will be filled by the end of the Draft in the eyes of most Panther fans. Whether or not that is with the number nine pick or somewhere else in later rounds, the Panthers should be looking to add another solid starter opposite of Chris Gamble.
Along with the fact that the names that could step in on Day 1 of training camp and start, will most likely no longer be on the board at No. 9, leaves many options available when it comes to the Mid First Round talent. Carolina will have an opportunity to draft a starter with that pick either way. Offense or Defense, considering the needs the Panthers have on both sides of the ball.
Here is my list of 3 Big name guys that if still available Carolina must grab. All three are cornerstone potential players on the defensive side of the ball. Odds are none of the three will be available but if they are these players are “can’t miss” to any football eye.
(In the next few days I will give my list of offensive “can’t miss” players Carolina should draft if available)
1.) Quinton Coples 6′ 6″ 285 lbs UNC Defensive End
Coples has the potential to be the second coming of Julius Peppers in a Carolina Panthers uniform.
Yea, I said it. Julius Peppers.
Though Peppers was possibly more athletic at this time, being that he also played D-1 Basketball, I draw the comparison on their similar Junior seasons at Chapel Hill and how they are both Carolina Boys. Both possessed similar skills as well coming out of college and were identical in size. Athletically, like i said, I give the slight edge to Peppers at this same time, but overall speed and Coples ten yard split to me is better. To me Coples also shows that same explosive ability to come in a be the type of playmaker Peppers was in his rookie season in the NFL with the Panthers.
Coples likely hood of being available at nine overall may be better than others mentioned on either of my lists too. The fact that Quinton could come in on Day 1 and play in different defensive packages at a few different positions should make him an easy fit in Charlotte. Combined with his 4.72 40 yard dash for a guy approaching 300 pounds, odds are he is a Top 10 pick. Most mock drafts and experts have Quinton Coples as a Top 10 overall player in the coming 2012 NFL Draft, not just a top player defensively.
2.) Melvin Ingram 6′ 1″ 264 lbs South Carolina Defensive End/Linebacker
If you watched Ingram in college, at times you may not know what his actual position is because he was used all over by Head Coach Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. He showed great leadership abilities while leading the Gamecocks defense to a ranking of fourth overall in total defense to end his Senior campaign(after battling injuries early on in his college career). Proving even more so why Ingram has NFL talent, so much talent he should definitely be a Top 10 overall pick.
As mentioned he can play several positions on the defensive side of the ball making him hot commodity with a Coach like Ron Rivera. He runs a consistent sub 4.7, running a 4.66 at the combine, along with a 34.5 inch vertical shows his tremendous overall athletic ability. Ingram also benched 225 lbs 28 times showing a combination of strength and work ethic as well.
Melvin is also a Carolina Boy, growing up and becoming a local standout and legend in Richmond County while attending Richmond Senior High. The school is located in Rockingham, North Carolina, (less than two hours from the Panthers home Bank of America Stadium).
Im sure his interviews with the likes of Jerry Richardson will show more but adding these factors together makes him another great fit for the future of that Carolina defense.
3.) Morris Claiborne 6’0″ 185 lbs Louisiana State Cornerback
This may be more of a wishful thinking pick, but if Claiborne is still available for any reason at Carolina’s pick they should take him.
Should? Let me rephrase that because in no way do I anticipate him being available at NO. 9, but the Panthers BETTER draft this franchise corner if he is still on the board.
Claiborne finished a successful Junior season winning the Jim Thorpe Award given to the Nations top defensive back. Along with a consensus All-American vote with every organization, he was part of that great LSU defense who lost in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.
Morris draws comparison to fellow LSU Tiger and Top 5 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft Patrick Peterson. They both possess similar speed and explosiveness in coverage, though most would say Claiborne is a more polished corner at this same stage. Though he may not have the same type of Special Teams ability as Peterson, on 50 % of NFL teams he would still be an upgrade returning punts or kicks if need be.
Overall Morris Claiborne is another Top 5 overall talent in this coming draft by most experts and mock boards. Claiborne and Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick are the 1-2 best defensive backs in most eyes.
I would give the slight edge to Claiborne and say he could also come in on Day 1 of training camp in Carolina and be a starting defensive back. Claiborne and Chris gamble would be quite the corner tandem. Making Morris Claiborne easily another franchise type of player who if available is “can’t miss”