The similarities between the Panthers this year and the Eagles last year, at least in terms of a mock draft, are kind of funny:
- The Panthers finished their 2012 season on a meaningless hot streak, winning their last 4 games, temporarily saving the job of their head coach. The Eagles finished their 2011 season on a meaningless hot streak, winning their last 4 games, temporarily saving the job of their head coach.
- The Panthers hold the 14th overall pick this year. Before trading up, the Eagles held the 14th overall pick last year.
- A very common player thought to be a great fit for the Panthers is an SEC DT, in Sheldon Richardson. A very common player thought to be a great fit for the Eagles last year was an SEC DT, in Fletcher Cox.
- The Panthers have an aging player (Dwan Edwards) who played most of his career as a 3-4 DE, then became an under tackle in the 4-3. The Eagles had an aging 3-4 DE convert who played under tackle for them in Cullen Jenkins.
Sheldon Richardson’s game is flying around all over the field and making plays. He had 10.5 tackles and 3 FF last season. And look at his tackle totals:
Those are just insane numbers for a DT. However, despite the impressive numbers, he doesn’t do a very good job anchoring vs the run, as noted here by CatScratchReader.
Richardson’s best position in the NFL, at least in the 4-3, will likely be as an under tackle playing a lot of 3-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of the guard). That will give him more freedom to make plays instead of using him as a guy who has to face constant double teams.
Dwan Edwards currently mans that spot for the Panthers. He had 6 sacks last season, but only has 5.5 in his 7 previous seasons combined. Edwards turns 32 in May, although he recently signed a 2-year deal worth $3.6 million. I’m not so sure he should be counted on for that kind of production every year just because he did it once… not that he lit the world on fire in the first place.
Richardson should be looked at as an eventual replacement at the 3-tech spot for Edwards, not a guy that you’re going to insert right into the starting lineup as the NT. And that’s fine. Richardson will give the Panthers a rotational interior pass rusher in the short term, and an eventual starter at UT.