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 and breaking down the draft class by position. Have any questions, ask in the comments or interact with Danny on twitter: @danny_g13]
With Draft Day upon us it’s time for me to unveil my mock Draft. While my preference is to trade down and pick up more picks depending on how the board falls, trades are almost impossible to predict so I’m sticking with the selections the Panthers have. I also will be updating this tomorrow to reflect what the Panthers actually do in the first round. First though, I want to rank my top five prospects for the 14th pick, some of which will be on the board and others who aren’t expected to.
- Star Lotulelei: Def. Tackle – 6’3” – 311 lbs – Utah
- Lane Johnson: Off. Tackle – 6’6” – 303 lbs – Oklahoma
- Sharrif Floyd: Def. Tackle – 6’3” – 297 lbs – Florida
- Jonathan Cyprien: Strong Safety – 6’0” – 217 lbs – FIU
- D.J. Hayden: Cornerback – 5’11” – 191 lbs – Houston
The Panthers select with the 14th pick…
Jonathan Cyprien – 6’0” – 217 lbs – Florida International – Early on in the season, I saw Cyprien play against Louisville and I was very impressed. He was all over the field, both in the passing game and in run support. Cyprien is a very instinctive player, known as a hard hitter but his skills extend beyond just laying the lumber.
Size: Has good size for the position. Thick frame that he uses to deliver bone jarring hits on opponents. Above average arm length helps him go up and deflect passes.
Aggressiveness: Plays with a nasty attitude about him. Loves physicality, and seems to take pride in punishing players coming into his zone. Has a motor that never stops.
Ball Skills: Has good ball skills for the position. High points well, and extends his body to make plays on the football.
Rises to the Occasion: Seems to raise his game against the better competition, enjoying some of his best outings against Louisville, Texas A&M and Rutgers.
Run Support: Reads and reacts well to the run, sniffing out draws and helping to close off cutback lanes. Makes the plays you hope to see out of an upper level in the box safety.
Zone Defense: While his coverage is not as strong as his play against the run, he performs admirably in Zone defense. He has just enough speed to cover the ground necessary on his half of the field.
Straight Line Speed: Does not have exceptional straight line speed to turn and run with Receivers.
Reaction to the Pass: Does not react to the Quarterback as quick as you would like. Often he arrives in time to crush the pass catcher, but not to make a play on the ball.
Aggressiveness: Can be frozen by a good play action, and takes overly aggressive angles to ball carriers leaving him susceptible to cut backs, and missed tackles.
Recovery: Struggles to recover when he’s beaten. Lacks elite change of direction leaving him exposed against quicker Receivers in man situations.
I would love to believe any of my top three prospects are going to fall, but I just don’t see that. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Panthers aren’t getting a very good player in Cyprien. Cyprien is a perfect fit for the Panthers at safety. He is a violent hitter, and a great wrap up tackler. He’s not the man coverage player that Kenny Vaccaro is, but that’s not really a safeties main responsibility either. What I love about Cyprien is how aggressive he is, and his good ball skills. He also plays his zone well, something that will be expected of a safety on a regular basis. Cyprien is regarded as a player who raises his game against the best competition, which should only help him once he’s facing the best every week. This pick may look like a bit of a reach right now, but in my opinion Cyprien is not only the best fit at Safety for the Panthers, but the best safety in the class.
Pick #44 – Markus Wheaton: WR – 5’11” – 189 lbs – Oregon State
Wheaton is a Wide Receiver I’ve been enamored with since the Draft process started. He’s a player who can not only take the top off a defense, but also make catches in tight windows. He can be moved around to exploit the defense, and has a solid level of elusiveness after the catch. I feel like he can push LaFell for the number two job, and is a potential heir apparent to Steve Smith.
Pick #108 – Montori Hughes: DT – 6’4” – 329 lbs – Tenn.-Martin
Hughes is a huge Defensive Tackle who can contribute at the Nose Tackle position from day one. He’s very light on his feet for a man his size, and has an explosive first step off the snap. He also fills passing lanes well, and gets his hands up to bat down the ball. There are some concerns about his character, but in the fourth round this is a potential “reward outweighs the risk” pick.
Pick #148 – Sanders Commings: CB – 6’0” – 216 lbs – Georgia
Much like Josh Norman last year, the Panthers get a late round Corner with potential starter ability down the line. He’s an athletic physical Corner with great size and speed, and decent ball skills. He will probably be relegated to Special Teams in year one, but getting a future starter down the line is just about the best you can hope for in the fifth round.
Pick #182 – Caleb Sturgis: K – 5’10” – 188 lbs – Florida
While I hate to pick a Kicker in a draft with so few picks, I also hate having to worry about extra points and field goals from inside of thirty yards being converted. Sturgis fixes that, as he’s a highly accurate kicker with a big leg. In the seventh round the Panthers get in my opinion the best Kicker in the draft and most reliable in Charlotte since John Kasay left town.
Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how the Panthers first round pick (or trade) impact Danny’s Draft Board