Starting today, and continuing up until close to draft day on April 30, Panthers.com will take a position-by-position look at the draft with some assistance from NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock. At each position, we'll examine Mayock's top five prospects, highlight a Scouting Combine standout and mix in a little local flavor.
Let's get things started with the defensive ends, or as Mayock classifies it, edge rushers. Said general manager Dave Gettleman at his end of season press conference, "You know how I feel about pass rushers."
MIKE MAYOCK'S TOP FIVE
Dante Fowler, Jr.
6-3, 261, Florida
Fowler lined up at several positions at Florida, but NFL scouts believe once he settles in at one, he can become a dominant edge rusher at the next level. Expected to be a top-10 pick after posting 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss as a junior in 2014.
6-5, 235, Nebraska
Gregory is extremely quick off the snap and has elite athletic ability. There are some concerns about his strength and power, but he's added weight since his college career ended and will likely be drafted early in round one. Recorded 17.5 sacks in two seasons at Nebraska after transferring from junior college.
6-3, 245, Missouri
He may not have ideal length, but Ray's athleticism and production stacks up well against anyone. He was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 after leading the conference with a school-record 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.
6-3, 246, Clemson
Arguably no one improved their stock more than Beasley at the Scouting Combine. He's a top-flight athlete, evidenced by his 4.53 40-yard dash, the fastest among edge rushers in Indianapolis. He wreaked havoc during his four seasons at Clemson, finishing his career with 33 sacks and 52.5 tackles for loss.
6-4, 269, Kentucky
All of the prospects listed so far are incredible athletes who are first-round talents, and Dupree is no exception. Dupree, who finished his career with 247 tackles, 23.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss, posted a 42-inch vertical jump – the fifth-highest mark at the Scouting Combine.
6-5, 252, Louisiana State
Hunter's 4.57 40-yard dash was the top time among defensive linemen at the Scouting Combine. He recorded just 1.5 sacks in 2014, but scouts are intrigued by his potential despite the lack of production.
LOCAL WORTH A LOOK
6-5, 283, Clemson
Crawford is a powerful player who is projected to be drafted in the middle rounds. Four-year contributor finished his career with six sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss.