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Oct 27, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Erik Highsmith (88) with the ball as guard Jonathan Cooper (64) looks to block in the first half at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers Should Take a Chance on Alabama's Chance Warmack

Everyone who watched the NFL Scouting Combine last month saw UNC guard Jonathan Cooper out-everything Alabama’s Chance Warmack in the physical measurements. Cooper’s definitely the more athletic of the two guys and someone that Vince Lombardi would have ADORED as a pulling guard in the Packers’ vaunted “power sweep.”

I’m sure NFL aficionados remember the famous chalk-and-blackboard video clip of the great coach as he diagrammed his play…”A seal HERE, a seal HERE; you run the play in the ALLEY!”

Cooper has the speed, agility, and acceleration to pull and get out in front and maul whomever is in his way.

One thing, though.

NFL defenses these days are generally so fast, running wide isn’t something most teams do very often. Yes, there’s the read/option, but that’s just like it says – an OPTION – to go outside, and the guard isn’t involved in the outside part of that play. Generally, the QB reads the end, and if the end stays at home, the QB pitches outside to the running back. If the end covers the back, the QB turns it up inside and runs.

There’s a chance some team will draft Cooper over Warmack for his athleticism. Warmack isn’t fast, he can’t jump. Big deal. He’s an inside blocker, and speaking of scenes from NFL films, will NOT be called upon to run down a wide receiver from behind a la Cowboys’ DT Randy White vs. Philadelphia.

No, Warmack will be told to move the guy who is in front of him out of the way. In short, that’s the job description of an offensive guard, and NO guard is better at it than Alabama guard Chance Warmack. Not Jonathan Cooper, nor anyone else.

I may sound like a broken record, but Warmack is the best interior lineman in the SEC and in the nation. His game tape doesn’t lie – he just takes his man and moves him wherever he wants him to go, and doing so facing an SEC schedule.

Warmack still stood out as the best of the best, and the Carolina Panthers desperately need a right guard. Warmack largely played left guard in college, but moving to the right side won’t be an issue. He can play either side.

If Chance Warmack falls to #14 overall, the Carolina Panthers organization would be remiss not to draft him. At #14, he’d most certainly be the “best player available” – he’s already been labeled as the best prospect in the entire draft by some – and recall the Panthers had to pick up rejects to start games towards the end of the season when Geoff Hangartner was moved to center because of Ryan Kalil’s knee injury. The cupboard was bare at guard to replace him when he moved over.

While Hangartner is a valuable piece of the puzzle, I think his best role would be on the bench as the first backup player in the interior offensive line if any of those three get injured or need to come out for a quick rest. Since Hangartner can play center or guard and knows the offense, he could come off the bench and be inserted without a huge drop-off in efficiency or knowledge.

Drafting Warmack would hugely upgrade the right guard position as last year’s early second round pick, Amini Silatolu, continues to learn the nuances of NFL blocking schemes. Warmack comes from Alabama’s Nick Saban-run offense, and they already use many of the same concepts so Warmack would be NFL-ready from day one, as well as a day-one starter on that right side.

No, he’s not a “sexy” pick like a Tavon Austin is, but I wouldn’t put the Panthers’ #14 overall pick on the shoulders of a situational player/slot WR like Austin. He’s’ 5’8″ which automatically limits him in certain ways, despite his speed.

Chance Warmack is the guy who Rivera can plug into the offensive line and singularly improve the running game – one that struggled mightily at times in 2012. When you’ve got a STACKED backfield with FOUR running threats – D-Will, J-Stew, Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton – you’re going to WANT an offensive line that is big, strong, and can move the pile. “Athletic” guards would be nice, all else being equal, but first and foremost you want a guy who gets the freakin’ job DONE, folks…and that guy is indeed Chance Warmack.

There’s also a good “chance” that he’ll still be around at #14…probably 50/50. The Jets, Chargers, Dolphins, and Titans could all use a guard, but guard isn’t necessarily at the TOP of their lists. If Cooper and Warmack both go before 14 overall, they’ll likely be heading to New York and Tennessee, either-or.

The Jets’ offensive line is a well-publicized shambles and the Titans can use some help on the inside for CJ2K’s running and QB Jake Locker’s continued development, but both teams need help on the defensive side too. As usual, the draft possibilities are endless.

Fellow Panthers fans, if you DO hear Chance Warmack’s name called, you should rejoice instead of groaning about Tavon Austin (small size) or Cordarrelle Patterson (work ethic/maturity issues). Warmack is not only as safe a pick as there could possibly be at 14, he’s a likely future Pro-Bowl guard.

Remember, it’s the linemen who set things up for those breathtaking DeAngelo Williams breakaway runs or Cam Newton’s gliding, slamming runs…when he’s not looking awkward trying to slide, that is.

Warmack is a blue-collar worker in the trenches and there’s nobody better in this year’s draft class. It also happens to be the BIGGEST problem area – including RT and WR2 – on the entire offense. Teams love to build from the inside-out, so signs point to Warmack yet again.

If Warmack’s name is called at 14, think in terms of the holes he’ll help open so that the OTHERS on offense get to make bigger plays…and that’s what the team sport is all about.

I’m still hoping the Panthers will hire a baseball “sliding coach” for Cam. The last thing the team needs is a self-inflicted concussion on a QB slide!

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Tags: 2013 Carolina Panthers Draft Needs Chance Warmack

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