Over the next week, The Falcoholic will review the 2011 drafts of the three other teams in the NFC South. Today, it's the Carolina Panthers.
The Atlanta Falcons had little to fear from the Panthers in 2010. That's not likely to change this season, but the team's draft raises the possibility that they'll be a major nuisance in the near future.
After a disastrous draft preceding last season, the Panthers set themselves back in a big way. The Tealcats had a handful of good to great picks and a couple of weird ones, as they are wont to do. A lot of this
After the jump, I'll briefly break down each pick.
QB Cameron Newton: The first overall pick in the draft is the quintessential boom-or-bust selection. Newton is an enormously talented athlete with a great arm and the ability to learn a pro-style offense. He's also far from a fully developed quarterback, and he comes with character concerns.
There's almost no way Newton will bust out in 2011, but long-term he's a significant concern. He has more upside as an athlete than anyone else in the division, and he could be a great quarterback by the time all is said and done. But as brilliant as he can be, Newton's raw enough that he isn't going to get the Panthers back to their winning ways this season.
That's good news for us.
DT Terrell McClain: A big-bodied defensive tackle with a nasty streak against the run, McClain will help shore up the Panthers' rush defense. Given the depth up front for the team, there's a chance he could be starting this season.
This is no knockout pick, but McClain is well-rounded enough to have an impact. Solid choices at defensive tackle always help a team in shambles.
DT Sione Fua: If McClain is well-rounded and polished, Fua is somewhat less so. But as a huge, line-clogging defensive tackle who is stout against the run, he'll have value for a team that desperately needed to shore up its rush defense. Solid pick.
CB Brandon Hogan: Injury histories and off-the-field concerns dropped the talented Hogan from the second round or so down to the fourth. Hogan's got all the tools you'd look for from a solid starting cornerback, but he's got to stay on the field and out of trouble. That's not a lock, but it's another strong selection for the Panthers, if a bit of a gamble.
WR Keloha Pilares: A 5'10" wide receiver from Hawaii, Pilares was insanely productive in that college's run n' gun style offense. He's not huge and he's not particularly fast, but he's got good hands and runs strong routes. Given the way the Panthers flailed and missed at Armanti Edwards last year--with the caveat that it's still very early in his career--Pilares is a good pick that gives the Panthers a potential real slot receiver.
OLB Lawrence Wilson: Speedy and tall, Wilson can handle pass coverage but lacks size to deal with big backs and opposing offensive lines. I don't think Wilson has the upside to be much more than a special teams guy and a valuable reserve, but that's not bad value for as late in the draft as the Panthers got him.
C Zack Williams: Solid and versatile, Williams is a valuable backup interior lineman who is a little too stiff to be more than a reserve. I'm not a huge fan of Williams, but the Panthers need depth behind Ryan Kalil.
OT Lee Ziemba: Like Williams before him, Ziemba is a talented enough reserve with considerable strength. He does lack the ability to move quickly on his feet and will likely struggle to contain speed rushers at the next level, which means Ziemba's future will likely be inside.
Conclusion: The Carolina Panthers had an exceptionally solid draft. Cam Newton and Brandon Hogan are high-upside guys with a chance of busting, while pretty much everyone else is solid but lacks high upside. Williams, Wilson and Ziemba aren't great selections, but they'll provide needed depth to a team almost entirely without it. This is a good building block for the Panthers.
For more on the Carolina Panthers and their draft, visit Cat Scratch Reader.