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Draft review: What analysts are saying

Posted May 1, 2012

The true measure of the Carolina Panthers' 2012 draft class is still at least a couple of years away, but in the world of instant gratification, the Panthers have to feel gratified.

Virtually across the board, the Panthers received high marks for the group of seven they selected over three days at the NFL Draft. The only consistent criticism came from draft observers who believed the Panthers should have selected a defensive tackle, a perceived area of need by outsiders but not by those inside the football offices.

"To me, the tackle position isn't really a concern," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said when asked about draft needs at the end of last season. "We had a number of guys step up and play very well for us."

Here's a look at what the experts thought about the players the Panthers picked individually as well as their draft overall.

PLAYER PLAUDITS

--ESPN analyst and two-time All-Pro linebacker Tedy Bruschi loved the first-round selection of linebacker Luke Kuechly: "He's smart. He's instinctive. This guy is going to be a star."

--Peter King of SI.com called guard Amini Silatolu, the Panthers' second-round selection, the best offensive pick of the entire draft: "Multiple teams targeted him late in the first round, and GM Marty Hurney got a great value here. He'll bring an attitude and versatility to the Panthers and should be a 10-year starter wherever Carolina needs him."

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay seconded that by labeling Silatolu as the most impactful player in the Panthers' draft: "I think he is a phenomenally talented offensive guard. Should be a starter Day One."

--Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network described defensive end Frank Alexander, whom the Panthers traded up to grab in the fourth round, one of the top 12 value picks of the entire draft: "Alexander has great arm length and inside quickness, and he seems to have a knack for making plays. The ex-Sooner should be able to contribute to the Panthers defense right away."

--Pete Priscoe, senior NFL columnist for CBSSports.com, labeled wide receiver Joe Adams as the Panthers' best pick and did so without even noting his exceptional ability as a punt returner: "Fourth-round receiver Joe Adams is a nice player. He has the look of a good slot receiver."

--McShay said cornerback Josh Norman was the Panthers' most intriguing pick, saying he could be a steal. Priscoe called Norman a "Third-Day Gem": "Fifth-round corner Josh Norman comes from small-school Coastal Carolina. He impressed during the season, but didn't have a great Senior Bowl week. Some scouts think it was too big for him. But he has the ability if he can adjust."


OVERALL GRADES

--Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, while categorizing the Panthers among "this year's playoff contenders", gave their draft an A-: "Kuechly and Silatolu bring much-needed physical nastiness to each side of the ball, and Adams was a nice gift for Cam Newton."

--Priscoe gave the Panthers a B : "General manager Marty Hurney had a heck of a draft. It started with linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round and it continued all the way through it. I love Adams and Norman on the final day."

--Lombardi also gave it a B : "I think it's a really nice, complete draft."

--ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper gave the Panthers a B- while adding a bold prediction about how quickly the draft class will help: "I'll go with Carolina as the team that wins the division."

--Will Brinson, senior blogger for CBSSports.com, didn't offer letter grades but included the Panthers among five "winners" in the draft: "They took a big step addressing their rush defense by adding Luke Kuechly, they found Cam Newton a sneaky weapon in the fourth round in Joe Adams, and Amini Silatolu could end up ultimately replacing Jeff Otah at right tackle. Frank Alexander and Josh Norman are nice depth on defense, too."