Skip to main content

NFL Draft ready to kick off


CHARLOTTE – The 2012 NFL Draft finally is upon us, and the question on everyone's mind is simple, even if the answer is not: What will the Panthers do with their first pick?

Every fan has their answer. Every media member has their answer.

About the only people who don't have the answer are the ones ultimately responsible for the only answer that truly matters.

"We're not where we were last year, where we had the pick of the litter," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We have to react to what's happening – who goes here, who goes there – and then we'll decide who fits us best."

Last year, the Panthers possessed the No. 1 overall pick, so no one could stop them from selecting their franchise quarterback in Cam Newton.

This year, they own the No. 9 overall pick, so the player they most covet might not be an option once they're on the clock Thursday night.

"It's hard to predict who is going to go in front of us," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "Obviously there are some guys that you are more sure than others about, but when you go nine players deep, there will be a good player there.

"When you get there, you're always open to anything. But the thing you want to make sure of if you're sitting at nine is that there's a player there that you feel comfortable with if you do decide to use the pick."

Hurney believes it's a deep draft and is confident the Panthers will get a good player at No. 9. He can't definitively predict how everything will go down in front of the pick, but rest assured that he and his staff are prepared for every possible scenario.

"We go over a countless number of scenarios that could happen on draft day and what we would do if that happens," Hurney said. "Who do you think is going to be there at nine? If this person is not there, what do you do? If these two guys are at nine, who do you take? If not, do you trade back? If you do trade back, who would you take? How far can you trade back and still get him?

"We try to go over those in as much detail as we can so that on draft day there really aren't that many surprises."

Surprises will surface to be sure, but they won't catch Hurney and all of the Panthers' personnel involved in the draft process off-garud because of the myriad of mock drafts they have run. On the other hand, fans who follow and perhaps even do their own mock drafts should be in store for some surprises.

Last year, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper predicted the first six picks correctly, but he missed the next eight choices and then 15 of the final 18 first-round picks. Kiper had Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers slotted at No. 24, but Bowers didn't go until pick No. 51. He didn't have Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, the No. 12 pick, being selected in the first round at all.

The reality is that no one, not even the decision-makers themselves, can accurately forecast exactly what will happen. By the same token, no one can say with confidence the day after the draft ends who the winners and losers were. That's to be determined on the field, over time.

Only a couple of things are certain: The Panthers will be a better team after the draft than before it, and it should be entertaining to watch it unfold.

"This is really fun," Rivera said, "getting to pick your team and put your team together."

The fun begins with the first round Thursday (8 p.m.), followed by the second and third rounds Friday (7 p.m.) and the final four rounds Saturday (noon). The draft will be broadcast by the NFL Network as well as ESPN.

Former Panthers great Mike Rucker is scheduled to announce the team's second-round pick, No. 40 overall. The Panthers don't have a third-round pick, having traded it to the Chicago Bears for tight end Greg Olsen last year. On the final day, they have picks in the fourth round (104th overall), fifth round (143rd), sixth round (108th and 207th) and seventh round (216th).

Related Content