Last year the trendy pick for the Carolina Panthers was a defensive tackle. The year before that (you know, the year they took Cam Newton), the trendy pick was a defensive tackle; Marcell Dareus, I believe. This year it’s Sheldon Richardson, or Star Lotulelei if we’re lucky enough to have him fall to us.
Plenty of people, including myself, scratched their heads last year when the Panthers selected Luke Kuechly at number nine. A linebacker, really? You take a linebacker with the ninth overall pick when you have Pro Bowler Jon Beason, and stalwart linebackers James Anderson and Thomas Davis on your roster? How do you expect to stop the run with no defensive tackles?
The argument is correct the majority of the time that the line, on both sides of the ball, is where football games are won and lost. With the exception of the 2012 Carolina Panthers…for the most part. Funneling plays to rookie standout Luke Kuechly will help. The fact that he is a tackling mad man is another. It’s also completely unnecessary for a commanding line to have two great defensive tackles. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy did great jobs not only in keeping contain on the edge, but also in providing run support up the middle. You could argue, also, that Dwan Edward’s breakout season was more scheme than ability. He’s never posted numbers like that at any point in his career.
Yet mocking a defensive tackle to the Carolina Panthers is still the trendy pick. Now why would you mock a defensive tackle to a defense that was only giving up 110.1 yards rushing per game at the end of the season, and not mock one of the capable, standout linemen that could still be available in the first round? Why mock Sheldon Richardson if Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper is available? Were our guards not revolving doors more so than any of our defensive tackles? Did our offensive line not finish in the bottom five of the league in terms of offensive line productivity?
Defensive tackle is not our biggest need. It’s true, we haven’t had a dominant defensive tackle since Kris Jenkins, and yes, we’ve drafted some busts. But we also drafted Cam Newton to be the face of our franchise and to hopefully lead us to a Super Bowl win. Now the responsible thing to do is to draft an offensive lineman to protect him. Does anyone else remember the seven sack beating he took against Denver? A constantly changing offensive line will not be able to gel and create any solidarity with each other.
It would even make more sense to draft Kenny Vacarro out of Texas. Free Safety is more of a need than defensive tackle. Sherrod Martin (who’s actually scheduled to be meeting with the Chiefs tomorrow, 4/12), Haruki Nakamura (just remember Atlanta), and D.J. Campbell are our options at Free Safety. If you’re the Panthers and your most productive safety is a rookie who only played in five games you may consider an upgrade there. Defensive tackle was not the reason that Haruki Nakamura gave up that 59 yard catch to Roddy White.
One big tell on where the Panthers may be looking in the draft is that they’ve brought in 10 wide receivers for workouts. They’ve only brought in one guard, two offensive tackles, and two defensive tackles. If they draft a wide receiver first then they’d better draft Jordan Pugh out of Syracuse in the second round if they expect Cam to have any time to throw to him. The combinations of players they could take in the first two rounds is interesting. None of those combinations should include a defensive tackle.