Carolina Panthers Draft Review

by Tommy Lawlor  –  ScoutsNotebook.com

CAROLINA PANTHERS

2 – QB Jimmy Clausen – Notre Dame
3 – WR Brandon LaFell – LSU
3 – WR Amranti Edwards – Appalachian State
4 – LB Eric Norwood – South Carolina
6 – DE Greg Hardy – Ole Miss
6 – WR David Gettis – Baylor
6 – S Jordan Pugh – Texas A&M
6 – QB Tony Pike – Cincinnati
7 – CB R.J. Stanford – Utah
7 – DB Robert McClain – UConn

For the second straight year the Panthers didn’t have a 1st round pick.  They had used it in a trade to help land DE Everette Brown last year.  As some players of interest slid this year it had to be tempting to GM Marty Hurney to consider another trade.  Instead, he wisely held his ground.  Draft day turned into a nightmarish game of Chutes ‘n’ Ladders for Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen.  He slid all the way down to pick 48 and the Panthers took him.

I never saw Clausen as a Top 10 player the way that some did.   I thought he’d go in the 1st round, but more in the 20 to 30 range.  Clausen is a talented player with 3 years of experience in an NFL type of system.  The problem is that Jimmy isn’t special in any way.  He didn’t post great numbers at ND until 2009.  He didn’t win a lot of games.  He wasn’t a special leader that the other players just loved.  Underclassmen QBs make me nervous.  I only want those guys if I see special potential.  

Clausen turned some teams off with his personality.  I heard at least one team pulled him entirely off the board after an interview.  This isn’t to say that Jimmy is a horrible person.  The problem is that there’s a fine line between confident and cocky.  He didn’t always walk that line as tightly as he should have.  After all, we’re talking about a guy that won just 16 games in 3 years.  His biggest moment was beating Hawaii in a bowl game in 2008.  He never set any crazy records or did anything so special that he deserved to be brash.  Tim Tebow built enough of a track record to be cocky, but he wasn’t.

If Jimmy is somewhat humbled by the draft slide he could really benefit in the long run.  Every summer Tom Brady reminds himself that he was just a 6th round pick.  His goal is to stay humble and not lose his edge.  That mindset helped him to 3 Super Bowl titles, an undefeated regular season, and some amazing wins over the years.  I hope Clausen understands this.  No one expects him to become shy and reserved.   Just realize that attitude is important for an NFL QB.

Carolina has Matt Moore as the starting QB right now.  He played well down the stretch last year, but I do have some questions about whether he’s meant to be a full-time starter in the NFL.  Clausen wants to push for the job this year, but more realistically he will try to challenge for it in 2011.  Jimmy will be in for a shock in Carolina.  They have a solid O-line and actually use a pair of talented RBs.  He didn’t get the benefit of good blocking or a real running game at ND.  Clausen will enjoy not having to be the whole offense for a change.  The flip side of that is that he won’t have a great set of targets.  In college he had several special receivers.  Carolina has Steve Smith and his merry band of helpers.

I think Clausen can make it in the NFL if he has the right mindset and projects the right personality.  He doesn’t lack the physical tools.  I doubt Clausen does much in 2010, but we’ll all be watching closely in 2011 to see if the Panthers got a steal or if Jimmy should have continued to slide.

The Panthers had a pair of 3rd round picks.  They started by taking LSU receiver Brandon LaFell.  As mentioned above, the Panthers need help in the receiving corps.  LaFell could be a big help.  He showed flashes at LSU of being a top notch player.  Unfortunately, Brandon could never consistently play at the highest level.  He has good size at 6’3, 209.  Speed is okay.  He ran 4.58, which is fine for a big receiver.  And that’s what the Panthers need, a big WR who can move the chains and take some pressure off Steve Smith.  LaFell comes from a pro style offense, which should ease his transition to the NFL.  There is a chance he could earn a starting role as a rookie.  He was good value in the early 3rd round and should develop into a solid pro player.

The other 3rd round pick was used on Armanti Edwards, the dynamic I-AA star from Appalachian State.  He was a QB for the Mountaineers, but will start his NFL career as a WR.  Edwards was a special player for ASU.  He led them to the historic win at Michigan.  He helped the team win 2 Natl titles.  He won a ton of games and posted gaudy numbers as a passer and runner.  Edwards has the athletic ability to succeed as a receiver.  He is extremely quick and elusive.  I think people will be shocked when they find out how tough he is.  Edwards is small at 5’11, 187, but he isn’t afraid of contact.  He will lower his shoulder and fight for yards when it is needed.  The big challenge for Edwards is getting open and catching the ball.  He’s got the physical ability to get open, but route running is a skill.  He’s got to work on that.  I have no idea how he’ll do at catching passes in traffic in a game situation.  I anticipated Edwards being picked in the 5th round because he is a project.  The Panthers felt he was worth the risk.  He has the kind of dynamic playmaking ability that their passing game needs…if he can adjust to his new position.

In the 4th round Carolina made another interesting pick, choosing South Carolina (the real USC as Dan Reeves always liked to say) LB Eric Norwood.  Evaluating players can be tricky at times.  You want guys to fit certain roles based on size, skill set, athleticism, and potential.  When they don’t fit exactly you can have a hard time projecting where they’ll go or how they’ll pan out.  Norwood is such a guy.  He’s a shade under 6’1.  He weighs 252 pounds.  That is a MLB body.  The problem is that Norwood was at his best at SoCar when he was allowed to rush the passer as a DE or blitzing OLB.  He was a good playmaker for the Gamecocks.  He’s not the greatest athlete in the world, but is a tough, reliable player who gets the job done.  The Panthers are going to use him as a designated pass rusher.  He might eventually get reps at OLB, but for now is a role player and STer.  Norwood is a high character, productive player.  You wants guys like him to succeed.

The next pick came in the 6th round, when Carolina had 4 selections.  They took Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy first.  A couple of years ago he looked like a 1st round type.  Then injuries set in and his level of play dropped.  I wasn’t sure he’d even get picked.  Hardy has good size at 6’4, 280, but you have to wonder if he’s almost cursed at this point.  He’s gotten hurt on the field and off.  He still has talent, but he never developed into the player we all thought he would.  Not a bad risk by the Panthers in the 6th.  I’d love to see Greg pan out, but I have my doubts.

The Panthers decided to go with a numbers guy with the next pick.  They took WR David Gettis of Baylor, a size/speed guy.  He was a big time recruit a few years back.  Gettis is 6’3, 217 and runs in the low 4.4 range.  Lots of natural ability.  The problem is that he didn’t really develop in college.  He caught 116 passes in 4 years and only had 4 career TDs.  He needs time and coaching.  Gettis is the kind of guy the Practice Squad is perfect for.

Next up was Safety Jordan Pugh from Texas A&M.  He led the Aggies with 3 INTs in ’09 and was second with 51 solo tackles.  Pugh (5’11, 200) is projects to being a good STs player initially.  He could be a good role player on defense, but I’m not sure he’s got starting potential.

The final pick of the 6th round was QB Tony Pike.  He had a couple of really good years for Cincinnati and got some hype prior to the draft.  There were stories about teams looking at him in the early rounds.  I never really bought that.  Pike has potential, but too many questions.  He only started 19 games for the Bearcats.  He is slight.  He missed time due to injuries.  He also looks like a spread QB when you watch him play.  I’m not sure how he’ll handle a pro system.  Pike is very good in the Red Zone and that is one thing that definitely intrigues me.  He can make quick decisions and be very accurate with his throws.  Pike is far from NFL ready.  Give him time.

Carolina had a couple of picks in the 7th round.  They started by taking Utah CB R.J. Stanford.  He’s another player the Panthers took based on potential, not production.  Stanford had 1 INT and 12 pass break-ups in his entire career.  He did put on a big show at his Pro Day:  4.44 in the 40, 37.5 VJ, 10-11 BJ, and 6.81 3-cone.  That shows speed, quickness, and explosion.  Stanford has the athleticism to play in the league for sure.  We’ll find out if he’s got the skill.

The final pick for the Panthers was CB Robert McClain from UConn.  He’s a much more accomplished player than Stanford.  McClain picked off 10 passes in his career.  He also had 12 TFLs and 2 FFs.  McClain offers versatility.  He has experience as a KOR and PR.  He ran a punt back against Cincinnati for a TD.  McClain is only 5’9, but has a thick build (195 pounds) and does run well (4.42).  He could be a good Nickel back and STer.

The Panthers had one of the more interesting draft classes of anyone in the league.  The class will sink or swim based on Clausen, but guys like Edwards and Norwood could turn out to be pretty good players in their own right.  Each guy was a big time playmaker in college.  Will that carry over or not?

Panthers draft tracker at NFL.com

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