Carolina Panthers

NFL draft: Five possible defensive end targets for Carolina Panthers

Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd tackles Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) in October. Dodd was overshadowed somewhat by elite teammate Shaq Lawson.
Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd tackles Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) in October. Dodd was overshadowed somewhat by elite teammate Shaq Lawson. AP

With Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Oregon’s DeForest Buckner definitely being picked before Carolina’s selection at No. 30, and with Clemson’s Shaq Lawson more than likely going before then, here’s a look at five possible targets at defensive end for the Panthers in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah

 

Strengths: A 6-foot-4, 275-pound stud who can play on either side of the line, Ogbah had 12 1/2 sacks last season and 16 1/2 tackles for loss. He was an All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. His power helps him where his speed might lack in pass-rushing situations, and it also aids him in the running game.

Weaknesses: Teams want to see a little more explosion from Ogbah. His combine numbers – the 3-cone and 40-yard dash – will be very important to scouts. Does he have the get-off to warrant a first-round pick? That question should be answered this week in Indianapolis.

Projected round: Mid-to-late first.

Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun

 

Strengths: Calhoun stepped in for now-Tampa Bay defensive end William Gholston two years ago and the Spartans didn’t miss a beat. He had three seasons of 14, 12 1/2 and 15 tackles for loss with Sparty. He lined up mostly at left defensive end going against the right tackle.

Weaknesses: Calhoun (6-5, 251) plays like he’s 6-foot-5. That’s not a great thing. He needs to stay lower when rushing the passer. He also lacks some strength, as evidenced by an embarrassing clip of Alabama running back Derrick Henry breaking a tackle in the Cotton Bowl.

Projected round: Second.

Clemson’s Kevin Dodd

 

Strengths: Overshadowed by soon-to-be first-rounder Shaq Lawson, Dodd (6-5, 275) played extremely well against major competition. His play against Oklahoma and Alabama in the playoffs was outstanding, and it’s important that high draft picks play well in big games. His length is also ideal for the kind of pass rusher the Panthers seek.

Weaknesses: He’ll be 24 by the start of training camp, ancient for an NFL rookie. There will be a concern that he was good in college as a grown man and that he’s closer to his ceiling than a younger prospect.

Projected round: Mid-to-late first.

Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence

 

Strengths: Spence re-appeared on everyone’s radar with a dominant performance during Senior Bowl week. He’s the kind of speed edge rusher that would normally have Dave Gettleman salivating. Spence (6-2, 254) doesn’t fit perfectly into Carolina’s 4-3 scheme, but you make adjustments for talented players like him.

Weaknesses: How did a five-star recruit end up at Eastern Kentucky? The former Buckeye was kicked off the team for multiple failed drug tests, including one where he tested positive for extacy . Reports are he’s cleaned up his act in the past year, but is he someone the Panthers, a rigid organization when it comes to these things, want to take a chance on?

Projected round: First or third, depending on whether teams believe he’s turned the corner.

Penn State’s Carl Nassib

 

Strengths: The little brother of NFL quarterback Ryan, Carl Nassib (6-7, 272) led the nation in sacks with 15 1/2 last season for the Nittany Lions. Nassib, a former walkon, put on 60 pounds to get to the ideal size of a left defensive end. He can also drop into coverage since he’s so recently removed from being slight.

Weaknesses: He has one year of starting experience. Some could view that as a positive; that he’s clay that can be transformed into something. But he hasn’t been in this body long, and it’s still unclear what he’ll be able to do as an NFL defensive end when few people (including his former coach Bill O’Brien) projected him to be in this position two years ago.

Projected round: Second.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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