September 22, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson (34) gets instruction from the sidelines in the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Draft: Depth at Key Positions Favors Carolina Panthers

The 2013 NFL draft doesn’t take place for another 70-odd days from now but the NFL combine is mere weeks away.

For fans, it’s like 70-odd Christmas Eves each day. Will this or that player be around when the Panthers Pick? Who will go first overall, and if it’s not Geno Smith, how far will he fall? Will Chance Warmack get past the Titans at number ten or be around for Dallas at eighteen?

Number fourteen is a very interesting position to draft in. I think it, along with the depth in this year’s crop of defensive linemen, may allow the Panthers to slide down in the first round and still pick up a guy to help them, but let’s look at sticking at 14 and what some of the experts in the field say and who some of their own mocks leave off as being around later for such a scenario:


Bucky Brooks has Utah star…uh well Starlite “Star” Lotulelei going here. He’d certainly help a thin defensive Panthers line. I don’t think he’ll fall this far, despite concerns over his dedication to the game. Brooks has Sheldon Richardson, the DT from Missouri going to Dallas at 18. He’s a destructive presence in the middle with good, quick hands to help get off blocks and is tough to move off the ball.

Daniel Jeremiah has California WR Keenan Allen going here to Carolina. I can see the reasoning – WR is a need that is only going to get more pressing as Steve Smith’s skills decline on a team filled with a bunch of #3 WR slot-type guys. Allen has WR1 potential though lacking in elite downfield speed. At 6’3″ 205 lbs. he has the size to overpower smaller corners and runs crisp routes. Hands are a little inconsistent.

Charles Davis thinks Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson could land with the Panthers, so keep an eye on him in particular.

Gil Brandt has Baylor WR Terrance Williams going to Carolina at 14. Similar in size to Kennan Allen, he’s a better run blocker.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper says the Panthers take DT Sheldon Richardson from Missouri. His mock has Chance Warmack going at 18 to Dallas, so presumably he’d be around for the Panthers to pick. I think Warmack is special enough to grab here especially considering the need at the position, the financial and talent-laden backfield, and the sky-high ceiling of the kid. He might even make Amini Silatolu better leading by example, and with center Ryan Kalil hopefully returning to form, that would mean one of the worst interior lines in the NFL suddenly just became one of the best. Just like that it follows that RBs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert would give the Panthers one of the most physically punishing offensive attacks in the NFL.

Todd McShay says DT Sharrif Floyd from Florida goes to the Carolina Panthers, rounding out all prognosticators picking either a DT or WR as their first round choice, and I’d say that’s probably their two biggest needs other than offensive guard.

Whether the Panthers wind up with Warmack, Richardson, Allen or Williams they are going to get a nice upgrade. I think if GM David Gettleman is as sly as I think he may be, he’ll use the breadth of talent to his advantage, trade down, and still land a good contributor while starting to pile up a few extra draft picks or add another 2nd or 3rd-rounder sliding only a few choices in some scenarios.

The last point I’d like to make here is that if you look at last year’s draft, Stanford guard David DeCastro was picked around 12th to 16th in many mocks and he slid into the 20’s even through he was the best guard prospect in his draft. The position itself is low on the totem pole in terms of spending a lot of draft capital on the position, regardless of the level of talent, and that’s too bad.

A perennial Pro-Bowl guard is player I’d be happy to have drafted 14th. If so desired, leverage his upside into a favorable trade on draft day and take advantage of the extra pick for a shot at a contributor at yet another position of need or trade it for the 2014 first-round pick plus a 3rd this year and still get a DT or target one of the free safeties that are looking like late first rounders.

LSU’s Eric Reed would be an upgrade over Charles Godfrey or anyone else on the roster with D.J. Campbell taking over the starting strong safety position late last season and make the safeties a pair of young and talented starters with quite a bit of upside still to come. If they’re impressed with one of the receivers, they can get him at 14 and not really be reaching. The danger here is one or more really stand out at the combine and break into the top ten. We saw how many skill position types were traded up for in 2012’s draft.

I’d say the Panthers are in good position to really improve their team with the depth of the draft here no matter which direction they go.

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