Panthers: Meet the 2012 Draft Class
ROUND 1: Luke Kuechly, Boston College
The Carolina gave all three of their starting linebackers contract extensions last summer, but two of them—Jon Beason (Achilles tendon) and Thomas Davis (ACL)—went down the first two weeks of the season. Kuechly can play any of the three linebacker spots, but is best in the middle or weakside (where Davis plays).
At BC, Kuechly was a tackling machine who set NCAA records for tackles in a season (15.9 a game) and over his career (14.0 a game).
The Panthers expect Kuechly to make an immediate impact. Davis said Thursday he plans to be ready for training camp, but no player has come back from three ACL surgeries on the same knee. If Kuechly plays the weakside, that will allow Beason to stay at his more natural spot in the middle.
Panthers love Kuechly’s athleticism and football IQ. If he stays healthy, he should be an anchor in their defense for a long time.
ROUND 2: Amini Silatolu, G, Northwestern State
How he fits: The Panthers released veteran guard Travelle Wharton for salary-cap reasons, and signed free-agent acquisition Mike Pollak, formerly of the Colts, to compete there. Silatolu gives the Panthers a big, young player with a nasty streak to join the competition.
Silatolu, who is 6-3 and 320 pounds, played left tackle at Division II Midwestern State, where he dominated the lesser competition with 97 knockdowns and 24 touchdown-resulting blocks last fall.
The Panthers expect Silatolu to compete for the starting spot at left guard immediately. Despite his size, Silatolu has nimble feet that should make him a capable pulling guard, coach Ron Rivera said. He also brings a nasty streak that the Panthers’ offensive huddle could use with Jeremy Shockey not expected to return.
ROUND 4: FRANK ALEXANDER, DE, Oklahoma
The Panthers traded up to take Alexander, who combined for 15½ sacks his last two season with the Sooners. Alexander did not work out at the combine after a doctor diagnosed him with a hole in his heart. It turned out to be a misdiagnosis, and he’s been cleared. Alexander will have a chance to join the Panthers’ rotation at DE, where Charles Johnson needs help so he doesn’t see as many double-teams.
ROUND 4: JOE ADAMS: WR/PR, Arkansas
Carolina picked Adams to return punts after Armanti Edwards averaged 5.5 yards per return in 2011. Adams averaged 16.9 yards per return last season, which was second in the country, and led the nation with four returns for touchdowns. At 5-11 and 179 pounds, Adams has to get stronger if he hopes to crack the receiving rotation. He also needs to take care of the ball: He has 11 career fumbles.
ROUND 5: JOSH NORMAN, CB, Coastal Carolina
Norman has good size (6 feet, 197 pounds) and speed and will challenge Captain Munnerlyn, Brandon Hogan and Darius Butler for the spot opposite Chris Gamble. Norman had 13 career interceptions for the FCS Chanticleers, and his 35 pass deflections. Norman, who will turn 25 before the end of his rookie season, was offered by Georgia out of high school but did not qualify academically.
ROUND 6: BRAD NORTMAN, P, Wisconsin
The Panthers needed a punter after releasing veteran Jason Baker in a move to create salary-cap space. It’s the first time in team history the Panthers have drafted a kicker or punter. There were other punters rated higher than Nortman, but GM Marty Hurney likes his consistency (42.1-yard average). Carolina likely will bring in another punter, but Nortman was drafted to be the starter.
ROUND 7: D.J. CAMPBELL, S, California
Campbell is a small (6 feet, 205) free safety who did not become a starter until his fifth year at Cal, Ron Rivera’s alma mater. He had 71 tackles, with two interceptions, five pass breakups and two forced recoveries. The Panthers hope Campbell can help their special teams—he was on every special teams unit at Cal—but he projects as a backup at safety, at best.