[Ed note: With the rapid rise of former Mac Attack Intern turned NFL draft savant Josh "Casper" Norris, we're at it again. This time, former Mac Attack intern/draftnik Danny Guy will be covering the lead up to the NFL Draft for the show here on WFNZ.com, with a focus on the Panthers specific needs. Have any questions, ask in the comments or interact with Danny on twitter: @danny_g13]
The Underwear Olympics has come to an end, and while the NFL Combine is not the be all and end all for the participants, it can certainly help if you have a strong performance. So now that Ron Rivera, Dave Gettleman, and the rest of the Panthers staff have left Indianapolis, it’s time to look at some of the standouts at positions of need for the Cats.
Offensive Tackle: Lane Johnson, University of Oklahoma – Coming into the combine, everyone knew Johnson looked the part. What needed to be answered was whether Johnson was strong, and athletic enough to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL. Johnson showed scouts what they wanted to see, with a respectable 28 reps on the bench press. He also wowed talent evaluators with his 34” vertical, and 4.72 40 yard dash, both numbers good enough for second best among all offensive linemen. At 6’6 and 303 pounds, the converted Tight End has the build of a prototype blindside protector, and has been steadily rising after a strong Senior Bowl week. Johnson only helped himself on Sunday, and now looks like a lock to go in the top 15 picks. He would be a serious candidate for the Panthers at 14 overall if he’s still on the board, though he could find a home three picks before with San Diego.
Offensive Tackle: Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Armstead is a bit of an interesting prospect. The 6’5 306 pound Tackle came into the combine as a projected late second to third round prospect, and after his workouts is now regarded as a solid second rounder. Like Lane Johnson he has the prototype size you want to see at the position, and also like Johnson his combine numbers were scary good. His 34.5” vertical was a position best at the combine this year, and his position best 4.71 40 made Johnson’s exceptional time just a little less exciting. He also showed great strength with 31 reps on the bench press. With Armstead, it’s a question of whether he’s just a workout warrior, or can he actually play in the NFL. Panthers fans should look to a strong Shrine Bowl week for the answer to this question. Armstead who replaced injured Tennessee Tackle, Dallas Thomas in the game, was regarded as one of the standouts from both Shrine Bowl practices, and the game itself. If Armstead is on the board when pick number 44 comes around he could be a very intriguing Left Tackle prospect for the Cats future.
Defensive Tackle: Sharrif Floyd, University of Florida – Out of all the prospects that could be on the Panthers radar Floyd looks to be the least likely to be there when pick 14 rolls around. Once thought to be a fringe first rounder, no prospect has seen their stock rise higher and faster than Floyd in the last two months. On Monday Floyd only solidified his sky-high draft grade. At 6’3” and 297 pounds, Floyd displayed exceptional athleticism with a 4.92 time in the 40 yard dash. In the positional drills, Floyd excelled, displaying quick feet and a great initial burst. He was one of the most fluid looking of all the defensive lineman on Monday, showing the ability to stop and change direction almost instantly. Floyd is an extremely versatile player, playing not only the three and five technique, but also defensive end at Florida. His versatility, along with great production and measurables makes his a virtual lock to go in the top 10. While most Panthers fans would love for Floyd to be on the board at 14, he’s much more likely to go within the top 5-7 picks, possibly as high as number two overall to Jacksonville.
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant, University of Washington – Being the younger brother of two NFL Defensive Backs, including the extremely successful Marcus Trufant has created some huge expectations. Following up a successful Senior Bowl campaign, the youngest Trufant took another step in fulfilling those expectations at the combine this week. Trufant put to rest any questions about his long range speed with a 4.38 time in the 40 yard dash. He also looked smooth in change of direction drills, showing off good flexibility in his hips. During coverage drills he showed a good knack for being able to locate the ball quickly and attack it. His combine performance, in addition to his strong Senior Bowl showing has Trufant now rated as a solid first rounder. With the seemingly inevitable release of Cornerback Chris Gamble, Trufant could be a perfect fit for Carolina in a trade down situation.
Others Worth Mentioning
Offensive Tackle/Guard: Kyle Long, University of Oregon - A great 40 time, and excellent 10-yard split, combined with excellent position drills have turned Long into a possible fringe first rounder. Long’s versatility to play both the Guard and Tackle position has helped to improve his stock, however with his athleticism he looks like a natural fit at Left Tackle.
Wide Receiver: Tavon Austin, West Virginia University - One of the fastest 40 times at the combine, and solid positional drills has made Austin a middle to late first round prospect. The possibility for him to fill a Percy Harvin role in an offense, where he not only plays on the outside, but also the slot and as a change of pace back will only add to his value.
Wide Receiver: Robert Woods, University of Southern California - A 40 time that was higher than most thought it would be, and some of the best hands shown at the Combine have turned Woods into a definite second round prospect, with the possibility of going in the late first to a team like Houston.
Wide Receiver: Justin Hunter, University of Tennessee - An excellent 40 time for his size and above average positional drills have made Hunter a guy Carolina fans may be seeing in Charlotte with the Panthers second round pick.
Cornerback: David Amerson, NC State - An excellent 40 for a Defensive Back his size and great positional drills has made scouts stop and look at the talented NC State Corner again. Could be an excellent FS at the next level, or play Corner in a system like Seattle where they value press coverage. Amerson is likely to be drafted sometime in the second round.
Offensive Guard: Jonathan Cooper, University of North Carolina – Solid 40 time and good positional drills have kept the buzz about Cooper growing. He now looks to be a definite top 15-20 selection in the Draft.
Wide Receiver: Conner Vernon, Duke University – Vernon didn’t wow anyone with his 40 time, but his hands and route running may be second to none among the class of Wide Receivers. With his skill set, Vernon should make an excellent slot receiver at the next level. He will likely be drafted in the fourth round.