NFL Draft 2012: What Will The Carolina Panthers Do With The 9th Overall Pick?


Say what you will about the Carolina Panthers’ plan to enter the 2010 season with a lame duck head coach and a trio of quarterbacks comprised of Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike, but few within the organization have regrets about suffering through a 2-14 campaign.

That’s largely because the dreaded season turned into an opportunity to choose first in last year’s draft, the history of which most of you already know. For those who don’t, it equated to Cam Newton and arguably the finest rookie season in professional football history. Moreover, the Panthers signed him at a price tag more in line with how rookies should be paid, as the implementation of the rookie wage scale in the new CBA prevented Newton from cashing in like previous top picks before him.

The future is bright in Carolina, and the results were more fruitful in 2011 than the year previous, which is a good sign for the Charlotte faithful. Newton’s magnificence was enough to drag Carolina out of the NFC South basement, but not quite to make it out of the top 10 draft choices, as they’ll pick ninth come April.

Where to turn for the Panthers, you ask?

Who they will draft: Dontari Poe, defensive tackle, Memphis. If you don’t know him by name, you’ll probably recognize Poe as the behemoth defensive linemen who lit up the combine with blazing speed and power. The knock on Poe is a lack of production during his senior season at Memphis. Here’s a recommendation: seek traits, not production. Poe has many of the necessary physical qualities to be a disruptive force along the defensive front from day one, and Carolina’s in desperate need of run stuffing help.

Who they should draft: Poe. The team invested big money in DE Charles Johnson last offseason, and finding a talented rusher to play opposite him makes sense. If both Melvin Ingram and Quinto Coples are off the board, the Poe pick is all the more likely.

Who they could draft: Michael Floyd, wide receiver, Notre Dame. Steve Smith was a tremendous comeback story in 2011, but he’s 32 and soon to enter the 12th year of his career. Beyond him, the Panthers are thin at receiver, with just Brandon Lafell and Legadu Naane in the stable for the future. The vertical passing game is a major part of Carolina’s offense, and Floyd can get down the field. Surrounding Newton with receiving weapons will help mitigate the number of times he has to tuck and run. Despite the fact that he’s incredibly dangerous with his feet, Newton needs to be mindful of preservation.

Who they shouldn’t draft: Michael Brockers, defensive tackle, LSU. My biggest hesitation for Brockers? The learning curve. He played just two seasons of college ball, and he might not be prepared to contribute right away. He’s experienced a meteoric rise in his draft stock of late, but Carolina has better options at pick nine.

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