With the 40th pick of Pride of Detroit's 2012 NFL mock draft, the Carolina Panthers select Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner. DLions4Eva is serving as the Panthers' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
My pick wasn't a tough one to make. Cam Newton really only has one elite receiver in Steve Smith. He has a decent tight end in Greg Olsen but needs a No. 2 receiver to take some of the coverage away from Smith. This is where Juron Criner comes into play.
I chose Criner because of his size (6'3"), speed (4.60 in the 40-yard dash but has surprisingly good game speed), ability to stretch the field and his hands, which are exceptionally good. He has made some of the best highlight film catches that I've seen probably ever and has frequently bailed out the Arizona quarterback, who threw errant passes, well, quite frequently.
I feel like Criner has the ability to become the No. 1 when Steve Smith is gone. He reminds me of Marques Colston in a lot of ways -- big, good hands, good speed and has a lot of potential. He is the fifth best receiver on my big board and will be the seventh receiver taken. Criner will allow everybody on that Carolina offense to have a lot easier life if he can stay healthy. He did have an appendectomy last season, but he only missed one game despite this.
Even though he has medical concerns, his talent and potential were too good for me to pass up. Criner played on some mediocre Arizona teams and still produced a couple of decent seasons there. With Cam Newton, Steve Smith, the running backs, a decent offensive line, solid tight ends and now Juron Criner, the Carolina Panthers offense goes from good to potentially great.
Once the defense improves, this offense, with the addition of Juron Criner, has the potential to be a top-five unit. If they can play with a lead and actually keep it, the team could make the playoffs or even win the division. I feel strong enough about Criner to become an elite NFL receiver and I picked him about where I thought he should be picked. The Panthers get a legit NFL receiver and a great complement to a Pro Bowl receiver in Smith with this pick. Here are Criner's stats:
2011 - 11 TDs, 75 receptions, 956 yards, 12.7 ypc
2010 - 11 TDs, 82 receptions, 1,233 yards, 15 ypc
2009 - 9 TDs, 45 receptions, 582 yards, 13.3 ypc
2008 - 1 TDs, 7 receptions, 88 yards, 12.6 ypc
Check out the 2012 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.