First day of 2007 draft key to future

April 28th, 2007 proved to be a big day for the Carolina Panthers. If value was what they were looking for, they got it. General Manager Marty Hurney masterfully facilitated a trade which allowed the Panthers to move back from their 14th pick to the 22nd pick and add an additional 2nd round pick from the New York Jets.

With the first round pick the Panthers selected Jon Beason from the Miami Hurricanes. A high energy, versatile linebacker who will immediately challenge for playing time, but more importantly he adds insurance to the LB corps should veteran Dan Morgan go down again. Beason didn't time well at the combine, however Coach John Fox cited "position flexibility" as one of the reasons they selected Beason.

After the Beason selection, the Panthers had a couple of decisions to make in the second round because of the trade. With the first pick they looked to USC standout receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who supplanted Kerry Colbert (Panther's second round pick in 2003) as the all time receiving leader at USC. Jarrett's 6'5" frame and ability to make big catches makes him a very valuable weapon in the Panthers passing attack opposite Steve Smith. While Jarrett lacks ideal speed he plays faster than he times and would be used as more of a possession type receiver in Carolina.

The second pick of the second round was also heralded from Trojan land. USC's coveted center some how managed to slip all the way to the 59th overall pick - much to the delight of the Panthers front office. Ryan Kalil was the highest rated center in the draft, and again, "position flexibility" was key. The Panthers quickly learned the importance of offensive line depth last year when starting left tackle Travelle Wharton and Justin Hartwig were both lost for the season early on. Kalil can play center or guard, and many seem to think that he's a shoe in for the starting nod at center. Once again, the Panthers found terrific value in the draft.

Round 3 boasted another solid pick that provided not only great value, but much needed depth at defensive end. Veteran Right Defensive End Mike Rucker is growing long in the tooth, and the ACL injury he suffered late last season left the panthers with rookie Stanley McClover and Al Wallace to that void. McClover looked solid in his debut, but depth is now a concern. Charles Johnson was largely overshadowed by Quinten Moses at the University of Georgia, but the Panthers rolled the dice on another great value and selected Johnson. He lacks ideal size, but has a very quick first step and very good speed off the edge. Depending on Rucker's health, this season Johnson may challenge Stanly McClover for playing time right away.

At Panthers mini camp this past weekend, all four rookies saw a lot of action. Mini camp is designed to welcome rookies, introduce new players, introduce new schemes and begin to get back into the swing of things. The rookies have a particularly difficult task, as they now go from being the big men on campus to the bottom of the totem pole. Not only are the relegated bottom feeder, but they also have to learn their new team's way of doing everything. The terminology, the techniques and the speed at which they operate will all provide huge challenges as these rookies vie for respect and spots on the roster. One key to the transition boils down to nothing more than work ethic; if they show the team that they're willing to do the work required to make the roster they'll be rewarded.

This draft is no different than any other, while it looks to be a success on paper it will take time, several years even, to determine how these values materialize on the field. There are so many adjustments required to make the leap from the college ranks to the NFL that many are left in the wake of less talented, harder working prospects. The Panthers look to have had a fantastic draft, but only time will tell.


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