The Panther season has been, well pathetic. This has caused me to begin to look ahead to the 2013 NFL draft. This is usually reserved for when the Panther’s season is over, but at this point we don’t have much else to look forward to. This draft has to be the BEST in Panthers history. In this post I will look at whom the Panthers should draft #1 in 2013. There are many needs among the positions on this roster, I will start with what I feel the greatest need to be: offensive line.
The best player in the coming draft according to many prognosticators is the left tackle out of Texas A&M Luke Joeckel. Joeckel is 6’6” and 310 lbs. CBS sports has this to say about Joeckel“Joeckel’s protection and space making ability has made qb Johnny Manziel”. Manziel or Johnny football as he is also known owes a large part of his success to Joeckel and his cohorts up front on the offensive line. According to CBS sports, as of 11-14-12, has Joeckel as the #1 prospect in the 2013 draft. Bear in mind Joeckel is an underclassman and could decide to go back to A&M for his senior season. Rob Rang has this to say about Joeckel “Joeckel eases back off the snap, showing the light feet, lateral agility and flexibility to handle speed and/or power as a pass blocker. He plays on the balls of his feet with his knees bent, hips down and arms extended in textbook form.
Joeckel isn’t a mauler in the running game, relying more on his technique and athleticism to seal off defenders rather than simply drive them off the ball but he’s a reliable performer in this regard, as well.
Joeckel isn’t a finished product, but he demonstrates such a combination of size and fluidity already that it isn’t tough to imagine a similar ascent up draft boards as we’ve seen in recent years from
the likes of Matt Kalil (Southern Cal) and even All-Pro Joe Thomas (Wisconsin), the No. 4 and No. 3 picks of the 2012 and 2007 NFL drafts, respectively.”
The book end at right tackle to Luke Joeckel is son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Mathews son, Jake Matthews. At 6’5” and 305 Jake is every bit the quality at RT that Luke Joeckel is at LT. He is the best RT in the draft should he decide to declare for the draft. Rob Rang had this to say about Matthews ”Matthews is quick off the snap and uses his long, strong arms and good mobility to control his opponents when pass blocking. He can get himself in trouble when he stops moving his feet but more often that not once he grabs ahold of his opponent, it is game over for the defense.
In much this same way, Matthews is a terrific run blocker. Though athletic enough to surprise defenders with an occasional chop block or slipping out to the second level to nail a linebacker, he’s at his best simply driving defensive ends off the ball and creating lanes for A&M’s running backs to slice through.
Matthews’ lack of elite foot speed and balance may
limit just how high he can go on draft day but if he proves capable of handling the jump in athleticism he’s likely to face in the SEC, a top 40 grade is certainly within his grasp.”
Taylor Lewan is perhaps the 2nd best LT in the country. The Michigan junior has had a good year. He leads the Wolverine offensive line which had allowed only 7 sacks through November 7, 2012. Lewan is a redshirt junior who could decide to go back to Michigan and not declare for the draft. Dane Brugler had this to say about Lewan “With good height and length, he looks the part and has the frame to play on the left side at the next level, adding nearly 50 pounds since his senior year in high school. A former defensive lineman, Lewan is known as a self-starter with a mean streak and nasty attitude on the field, but is also expected to become more of a leader as a junior in 2012. He keeps his head on a swivel and has the competitive drive to win one-on-one battles, but needs to stay focused to cut down on penalties and use proper footwork and technique, not simply relying on his natural ability. While not considered to be on the same level as former
Wolverine Jake Long, who went No. 1 overall in 2008, Lewan has top-32 potential and will be a early-round prospect to watch in 2012.”
Should those players decide to forgo the instant fame and wealth they’re assured in the NFL, I believe the Panthers should still look to improve the offensive line. They could do this by drafting Chance Warmack.
Warmack is 6’2” and 322 lbs. Many scouts see his height as a disadvantage, Warmack however turns it to his advantage. He is able to get under the pads of the interior defensive lineman and make use of the leverage gained. Rob Rang says this about Warmack “Warmack is considerably lighter on his feet than one would expect given his stout frame and, like Jones, is adept at meeting and eliminating linebackers at the second level.
In pass protection, Warmack does a nice job of supplying an initial punch and grasping hold of his opponent, showing good lateral agility to slide, as well as the anchor to handle powerful bull-rushers.
Due to his lack of height, Warmack may lack the position versatility of his more recognizable linemates but he is further along in his development than Fluker and, frankly, makes more eye-popping blocks than Jones.
While his size means that he’ll be relegated strictly to interior blocking in the NFL, with another strong campaign Warmack could be one of the few pure interior linemen to earn a top 50 grade next April.”
The need for improved offensive line play is evident by how underwhelming the running game has been. As bad as the run blocking has been, the passing blocking has been even worse. Jordan Gross has been a great Panther and a great citizen for the city of Charlotte. Unfortunately his best days are behind him. He has been bested by the NFL’s best and his physical skills have diminished. Gross was never a very physical blocker, he relied more on good footwork, leverage and technique as opposed to using strength and power. Well with age Gross has lost a step and is now vulnerable to speed and bull rushes. I think it is time to draft the next generation of left tackle and move Gross over to the right side until we are sure of the development of Byron Bell.The best teams in the NFL have good to great offensive lines, we have neither. This draft presents us with the chance to make dramatic improvement to our offensive line in a short amount of time. Of course acquiring these players largely depends on the draft position of the Carolina Panthers. It seems fair to say we should be a top 5 pick and anyone of these players will be an upgrade to our abysmal offensive line.
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