With the seventh and eighth selections of the 2012 BTB Community Mock draft, two of the three Florida teams decided to solidify their lines. Jacksonville chose to complete their defensive line rotation with the selection of Quinton Coples, while Miami decided to forgo the franchise quarterback and instead went with the draft's top right tackle Riley Reiff.
So where does that leave Carolina? A team fresh off of giving a multitude of draft pundits the side eye is back on the first round clock. Many so-called experts doubted Cam Newton's worthiness as the number one overall pick last year and he only broke all of Peyton Manning's rookie passing records. This week, they signed his top receiver to a contract extension keeping Cam happy. Now it's time to build the rest of the team around him. Let's head to the podium and the assigned GM.
GM: Tarheel Paul
Selection: (DE) Fletcher Cox
Follow the jump for the pick justification, team needs and prospect profile.
This is one of those situations when need meets value. The Panthers entire defense was just horrible last year. They ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in every important defensive statistical ranking. Coming in at 24th against the pass, 25th against the run, 25th in scoring defense and 28th in total defensive yards given up.
Even with the glaring defensive needs I must say that it was very tempting to look at WR Michael Floyd. Steve Smith isn't getting any younger and giving Cam Newton a shiny new weapon is something they are going to need to address within the next couple of years. But the biggest thing that is going to keep Cam happy is winning. And they have to address the defense to do that.
With the top ranked corner and defensive end (Claiborne, Coples) all ready off the board the Panthers look to another defensive player that is the top ranked player at his position.
Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox out of Mississippi State. The more research I did on this guy the more I found myself hoping he falls to Dallas. To me, the biggest attraction to this guy might just be his youth. We're talking about a 21 year old young man coming in at 6'4" and 298lbs. But with that youth he has shown the ability to get better and better the more he plays. Last year he started off extremely slow but came on strong mid-way through the year to earn 1st team All SEC and SEC defensive lineman of the week on four different occasions.
According to everything I read on the guy there seem to be a lot of NFL scouts that seem to think he will make a perfect fit as a 3 technique in a 4-3 front. But I've also read that he has the speed to challenge big offensive tackles out on the edge. This is exactly what the Panthers need. A young, talented, versatile defensive lineman that has already proven he can perform with top level competition in the SEC but yet has the potential to get a whole lot better.-Tarheel Paul
HIGH PRIORITY TEAM NEEDS (lower number indicates higher priority) according to Drafttek.com
-- Threat Level Red (priority 1-2): Feature Wide Receiver (pre-Smith resign), 43 DT
-- Threat Level Orange (priority 3-4): 34 DT, Guard, 43 OLB, Sam Backer, Will Inside Backer, Cornerback, Slot Receiver,
-- Threat Level Yellow (priority 5-6): Feature Back, COP Back, FS, SS
-- Threat Level Green (priority 9): 43 DE, Quarterback, Possession Receiver, Tight End, Center, Left Tackle
-- Drafttek.com ranked #12 Overall, #1 at the position
-- Wes Bunting, National Football Post: #27 Overall, Not ranked as 43 DT
Possesses an athletic looking frame with a long set of arms, bubble butt, good girth through his lower half and has the frame to get even bigger. Doesn't do a great job sitting into his stance however off the football. Gets a bit upright off the ball in the run game and too often allows defenders to get under his pad level and create a push inside. Has the first step to cross the face of defenders consistently and threaten gaps off the ball inside. Is at his best stopping plays before they start by knifing his way into the backfield and fighting his way through contact. However, gets too upright off the ball allowing defenders to get under his frame and seal him from the action on trap blocks with too much ease. Isn't overly instinctive as well when asked to find the football and takes himself out of his fair share of plays. Also, needs to do a better job getting off the snap count on time.
-- Scout.com ranked #20 overall, #4 at the position
-- Mike Mayock ranked #1 at the position
Pass rush: Good quickness off the snap. Attacks gaps, getting skinny to slip past interior linemen when lining up as a defensive tackle. Enough speed to challenge the shoulders of strong-side tackles when lining up as a defensive end. Does not possess the explosiveness and flexibility to turn the corner efficiently, however, limiting his pass rush potential on the outside. Developing pass rush technique, including a swim move, but does not use this often enough. Relies almost exclusively on his bull rush. Generates an explosive pop to knock his opponent back onto his heels. Possesses the lateral agility to take advantage of the unbalanced offensive lineman to run around him and collapse the pocket.
Run defense: Good size and power, though Cox struggles with leverage, at times. Can be blown off the ball when double-teamed as he currently lacks prototypical width and thickness in his lower body for an interior defender. Cox does appear to have the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds. Good upper-body strength and quick hands to disengage from the one-on-one block. Penetrates gaps and locates the football quickly. Slides off of blocks to latch onto ballcarriers as they attempt to run by. Alert defender who recognizes the trap block and possesses enough quickness to beat his opponent to the spot. Lacks the sustained speed to chase down ballcarriers, but puts good effort into his lateral pursuit.
Strength: Naturally strong man who is still learning to use his power to his advantage. Good to very good upper-body strength and leg drive to push his opponent deep into the pocket. Good strength as a drag-down tackler, as well. Does negate his own strength, on occasion, due to a high pad level.
Tackling: High effort player who locates the football and pursues laterally and downfield. An effective drag-down tackler due to his upper-body strength. Surprisingly light on his feet showing an ability to adjust to elusive ballcarriers in close quarters. Closes quickly and wraps up well, but isn't an explosive hitter likely to knock the ball free. Has forced just two fumbles in three seasons of action.