Just about every mock draft you see has the Carolina Panthers taking a defensive tackle with the No. 9 pick.
But that doesn’t mean it absolutely will happen. There are wild-card scenarios out there and here’s one.
I am not totally ruling out the possibility of the Panthers taking Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 9.
Yeah, I know the Panthers have Jon Beason coming back from injury and he’s the unquestioned leader of this defense. But let’s think about some realities here. Kuechly is easily the best linebacker in the draft. He’s also viewed as a top-10 talent, although many have him going more in the middle of the first round. That’s because most people are matching up teams and their needs.
Carolina doesn’t seem like it needs a linebacker, but the Panthers may view things differently. They are bringing in Kuechly for a pre-draft visit and that really shouldn’t come as a total surprise.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Panthers take Kuechly and get their defensive tackle somewhere else in the draft or in free agency.
Beason just turned 27, which is still young. But he’s coming back from a major injury and outside linebacker Thomas Davis is coming back from his third torn ACL. The Panthers found out last year that you never can have enough linebackers. They could bring in Kuechly and groom him behind Beason. Or they could start Kuechly right off the bat and move Beason to the outside, where he’s played before because there’s no guarantee Davis will be the player he was before the injuries.
It might seem like a long shot and the Panthers still could go with a defensive tackle in the first round. But the fact the Panthers are bringing in Kuechly for a visit shows they’re at least entertaining the possibility of taking a linebacker.