With the 14th pick in Pride Of Detroit's 2013 NFL mock draft, the Carolina Panthers select Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Cram9030 is serving as the Panthers' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
So close yet so far. After the first 10 picks had gone by, I was hoping beyond hope that Star Lotulelei would fall to us at 14. He would have been the perfect pick, but as the immortal Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want." With the No. 1 player on our big board and all the premium offensive tackles already gone, there were three players with relatively equal grades at the top of the big board.
The first was Kenny Vaccaro. The Panthers safeties were typically poor this past year, and with Chris Gamble being a cap casualty, the secondary is pretty bare at this point. Vaccaro might have the capability to follow in a fellow Longhorn's footsteps and become a stud in the middle of the field like Earl Thomas, but in this draft, with the deep collection of safeties, he is just not the first-round pick we are looking for.
The other two players play the same position. Sylvester Williams and Sheldon Richardson are both excellent but very different players. Williams is your more typical nose tackle/5-technique defensive tackle, which is something the Panthers need desperately. They have quite possibly the best linebacker corps in the NFL, and those linebackers need to be kept clean. The Panthers struggled against the run last season but were especially bad in the center of the line, where Football Outsiders had them ranked 25th in adjusted line yards. Williams would be the big body who would let the linebackers roam free.
Unfortunately for Williams, you just don't pass on pass-rushing ability, which is what Richardson has in spades. Richardson racked up 75 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks this past year against stiff SEC competition. He should be able to take advantage of the excellent defensive ends that call Charlotte home by getting great interior penetration. He is probably not going to cure the run problems in the middle of the field at first because he is not particularly strong at the point of attack, but you can expect him to be a big upgrade over last year's starters in the run game, and hopefully he will improve as he continues to develop.
Check out the 2013 Pride Of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.