In the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Inside Linebacker, A.J. Klein, form Iowa State University. Automatically the Panthers gain more depth with the pickup of Klein. I’m sure he will come into the Panthers as the backup Linebacker on the roster.
The Panthers have two starting Linebackers who seem to have been injured for the majority of the past few seasons, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. Now with the addition of Luke Kuechly last year the Panthers have made the move of putting Jon Beason of the outside, in place of the newly minted Chicago Bear, James Anderson. With both players on the outside coming back from tremendous injuries to their legs, I would expect there to be some sort of learning curve to come with the territory. Davis is old, and Beason hasn’t played on the outside since college and even with Kuechly being a fantastic leader in the middle, there is bound to be some catching up for Beason as well as Davis.
My argument for this installment of “The Case for” is that A.J. Klein should not only be the top backup for the three Linebackers, he can play each position, but that Klein should be in the rotation. He has incredible instincts for a Linebacker, and according to NFL.comhis instincts and attitude to the game provide for a great football player. He plays well in coverage situations, against Wide Receivers and Tight End routes alike. Looking back at his records at Iowa State, he has recorded four interceptions for touchdowns showing he has the ability to disrupt a route and make a play with break out speed and illusiveness. He ran 4.66 in the College Combine as well as recording 20 reps on the bench press and 113 inch broad jump. Also, a fun fact about Klein is that he shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with current Panther, Frank Alexander, in 2011.
A.J. Klein has the ability and possibly the work ethic to make a solid impact on the Panthers. His abilities instinctively make him a wonderful football player; it seems that his physical play is the only thing holding him back from being an elite player in the NFL. I think with the right training and exercises, Klein could prove to be an incredible steal for the Panthers. I see him as a lesser Luke Kuechly, a big guy with a lot of great instincts. His abilities make him the natural backup to all three Linebackers; Davis, Beason, and Kuechly; my argument, or more of a plea to the Panther’s organization, is to keep him in the rotation as a starting Linebacker. The only way to make great players from late round picks is to coax and nurture them. The Patriots do it constantly. Who would have thought Shawn Ridley or Tom Brady would be the great players they are today without the help from the Patriots organization?
The Giants do it too, just on a smaller scale. That is why I have complete faith in Gettleman’s draft picks, and that is why I am sure the Panthers will not handle Klein, Kugbila, or Barner the wrong way. But what do you guys think of A.J. Klein? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.