Not every player fits every team. That is hardly news to most NFL fans, but the reality of this still impacts how teams draft and which prospects teams just have to pass on despite their ability. For the Panthers, players with skill sets far more suited to playing in a 3-4 defensive front have little or no value and it would be a significant surprise to see the Panthers draft any of the following players. While some are more suited to a move to a 4-3 scheme than others, all of these players would be better suited to an alternative defense.
There is, of course, no reason why the Panthers cannot draft one of these players, but given that they have less value for the Panthers than for some other teams because of Carolina’s 4-3 scheme; they are going to be lower on the Panthers’ draft boards than teams running a 3-4, making them unlikely targets for Marty Hurney and Ron Rivera. If they were to be drafted by the Panthers, they would likely be limited to specialist pass rushing duties, with their ability to cover being largely worthless to the Panthers and their size making them almost unsuitable on rushing downs; a good example of this would be how Mario Addison was used early on in his career. While this did have value to the Panthers, for players with coverage ability, they would likely be better used and more valued in a 3-4 system which doesn’t ask them to be quite so physical in run defense, making up for their lack of physicality by asking them to cover in space. With that being said, there is value in knowing what players are available in order to inform predictions of how other teams may behave.
The Big Board
Lorenzo Carter and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are the clear standouts of this position grouping; while Carter is more of a polished coverage player and Okoronkwo is more of a pure pass rusher, both show the athleticism and movement skills needed to be effective in both areas. Both are more likely to be suited to an early day two pick than a first-rounder as neither are at the top end in terms of technical development, but both could be solid starters in the right system with the potential to develop further.
Winbush is somebody who is going to be used largely as a pass rusher and only occasionally dropped into coverage; he is also not the most athletic guy but has solid pass rushing technique and looks to be more of a rotation piece for passing downs than someone who is every going to develop into a starter. Harold Landry is a far more athletic pass rusher than Winbush, and has the traits to be solid in coverage, but he is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player outside of specialist pass rushing scenarios; however, his spectacular showing at the Combine may boost him to the top of this list. He wasn’t asked to drop into coverage much at Boston College, and with workouts proving that he has that ability, his grade would rise into a Day 1 Starter.
Most of the remaining players at this position are either long-term developmental projects such as Haynes and Fitts or are likely to be limited to injury cover at the next level. Some team might see more in them and take them a little higher, but if any of these players are being taken near the second day of the draft, it would be hard to view them as anything other than a reach.
None of these players are likely to be on the Panthers’ roster next season, but players like Carter, Landry and Okoronkwo might be of interest to teams looking to trade into the 24th overall pick should the Panthers look to trade down.