Inside the Panthers

Re-drafting the 2012 NFL Draft: Who do the Panthers get?

Chicago Bears' Alshon Jeffery (17) jumps into the end zone for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Panthers won 34-21.
Chicago Bears' Alshon Jeffery (17) jumps into the end zone for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Panthers won 34-21. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Of the first 30 picks in the 2012 NFL draft, only five have turned in Pro Bowl seasons in their three years in the league.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how poor the top of that draft was. No.2 pick Robert Griffin III is seemingly days away from being unemployed. No. 3 pick Trent Richardson has been laughed at as a running back the past two years. No. 5 Justin Blackmon has struggled with substance abuse and may never play in the league again.

Obviously the Panthers hit it big with Luke Kuechly at No. 9. You’ll remember the Panthers already had a solid middle linebacker in Jon Beason, but Marty Hurney still went with the tackling machine out of Boston College at No. 9.

This got me thinking about a redraft three years later. With what we know now about these players, who would go in the top eight and who would Carolina be left with at No. 9?

With the No. 1 pick, the Indianapolis Colts select…

1. Indianapolis: QB Andrew Luck (Original pick: QB Andrew Luck)—He was No. 1 and he remains No. 1. We’re about a year away from Luck being the highest paid quarterback in the league, and we could be just a season away from Luck getting over the hump that is the Patriots and finally getting the Colts into the Super Bowl.

2. Washington: QB Russell Wilson (QB Robert Griffin III)—Seattle took a chance on Wilson in the third round, but if Washington had to do it over, it would obviously take the clutch quarterback who makes plays with his arm and legs and knows when to get out of trouble. Washington gets its quarterback of the future in Wilson.

3. Browns: QB Ryan Tannehill (RB Trent Richardson)—The four-win Browns had Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace as their starting quarterback. Tannehill just got a $100 million contract extension he deserved and is primed for his best season ever with this Dolphins team. Oh how the Browns fortunes could have changed with this pick. And think, there’d be no Manziel in Cleveland.

4. Vikings: LB Luke Kuechly (OT Matt Kalil)—With Chad Greenway and Jared Allen in the front seven, Minnesota replaces E.J. Henderson in the middle with Kuechly. The Vikings had the 21st ranked defense in the league in 2011 and could use a player with Kuechly’s instincts running the show with Allen aging.

5. Jacksonville: WR T.Y. Hilton (WR Justin Blackmon)—The Jaguars believe they have their future quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and now it’s time to surround him with weapons. Jacksonville didn’t have a single player with more than 500 receiving yards in 2011, so adding Hilton will finally give the second-year Gabbert someone to throw to.

6. Dallas: LB Bobby Wagner (CB Morris Claiborne)—The Cowboys are coming off a decent offensive season and they have studs on defense in linebacker Sean Lee and Anthony Spencer, as well as great line play from DeMarcus Ware as an outside backer and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. Why not add to that with Wagner? He can go inside the linebacking group and make it one of the best front sevens in the NFL.

7. Tampa Bay: LB Lavonte David (S Mark Barron)—In a strange twist, the Bucs still get their guy. Tampa Bay waited until the second round to get David, but in this draft he never lasts until then. Barron hasn’t panned out since his days at Alabama. Tampa gets the guy who will become one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the game.

8. Miami: QB Robert Griffin III (QB Ryan Tannehill)—Hear me out. In this hypothetical world, Griffin never goes to the dysfunctional franchise in Washington, where the field is torn up in the playoff game and he tears his ACL and where he’s treated like no other franchise quarterback is treated. Miami had a middle of the road defense with some good offensive pieces and no quarterback. Matt Moore went 4-6 and Chad Henne was 0-4 as starters. The Dolphins take the Heisman Trophy winner at No. 8.

9. Carolina: WR Alshon Jeffery (LB Luke Kuechly)—There are five names I have left on my list of players Carolina could take here. There’s Jeffery, defensive end Chandler Jones, nose tackle Dontari Poe, defensive end Fletcher Cox and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. I cross off Jones and Cox because the Panthers have just paid Charles Johnson and think they have something in Greg Hardy for cheap. Cox is a 3-4 nose tackle so he won’t do in the 4-3 scheme. That leaves Hightower as an outside linebacker and Jeffery. The Panthers didn’t re-sign tight end Jeremy Shockey and Steve Smith is closer to the end than the beginning of his career. Jeffery is a 6-foot-4 target that could finally give Cam Newton a big player to throw to coming off his Offensive Rookie of the Year season. I see the Panthers adding a weapon for Newton in 2012 rather than waiting another year. Jeffery only had 367 receiving yards his rookie season in six starts but has racked up more than 2,500 receiving yards in the past two years with the Bears. Carolina’s guy Kuechly is off the board so they stay away from another linebacker and roll into 2012 with this defense.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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