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NFL Carolina Panthers

2013 NFL Mock Draft: Carolina Panthers’ Mock Draft, Second Edition

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Carolina Panthers' Mock

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the NFL handed out compensatory draft picks to several teams across the league, a practice intended to maintain parity within the league. Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, they were not among the teams awarded draft picks. With very little cap space, this leaves the Panthers with five picks to build their team with. They can not afford to miss on any of them.

In last week’s edition of Panthers Mock, the franchise went after an unstoppable force by selecting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei with the 14th overall pick. It would be a safe move that solidifies a defense that ranked 14th against the run last season. They also addressed offensive line, wide receiver and secondary issues with the four remaining picks.

Carolina's circumstances make it difficult for them to build their team with the type of speed the average fan would like. Instead, it is has to be a much slower process, but if they make their selections wisely, they will have built the type of team worth waiting for. Many of the pieces are already in place, most notably, Cam Newton, the Panthers’ quarterback of the future.

Having the cornerstone of the franchise in place puts Carolina right path, but they are far from being ready to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. There are holes throughout their roster and it will take time to address everything that needs attention.

If you look around the internet, nearly every expert out there has the Panthers taking Sheldon Richardson with their first pick. It goes in line with last week’s mock selection of Lotulelei, although now that they have successfully re-signed Dwan Edwards, they may feel they are able to go elsewhere in the first round.

This second edition of the Panthers Mock takes a look at another direction Carolina may go. As always, if you have any thoughts, arguments or opinions you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comment section below. You can also reach out to us on twitter using the hashtag #RML, for Rant My Life.

Jeff Everette is a Miami Dolphins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, “Like” his page on FaceBook, or add him to your network on Google+.

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Round 1, pick 14: Tavon Austin, WR

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith has been holding it down from the wide receiver position for Carolina since 2001 and Brand LaFell has been showing growth in each of his three seasons with the team. Still, there are very few players that have the explosive potential displayed by Tavon Austin.

Austin has incredible speed and is able to make cuts without downshifting. This makes him extremely difficult to stick with in coverage and once he has the ball in his hands, anything can happen. He is was voted the most versatile player in Division I, earning him the Paul Hornung Award. He is the type of player that offensive minds will salivate for, knowing they could spend hours just trying to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

What makes Austin a great fit for the Panthers is his stature, something that other teams may feel is one of his drawbacks. At 5-foot-9, Austin would be joining a team that has been throwing the ball to an undersized receiver with great success for the last 11 seasons. With that “negative” out of the way, Austin’s blocking will need attention, and he could use some touch-up on his technique. Other than that, Austin has the potential to become the biggest star of this draft class.

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Round 2, Pick 44: Jonathan Cyprien SS

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Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Panthers played Charles Godfrey at the strong safety position and by season’s end, it was clear they would need to make a change going into 2013. Out of 88 strong and free safeties evaluated by Pro Football Focus, Godfrey made the chart at 82. This makes Jonathan Cyprien a must-have if he is available at 44.

Cyprien is a bruising 6-foot, 217-pound homing missile in the defensive secondary. He will have plenty of upside when he hits the NFL. He plays the run well and has decent ball skills, and is able to locate and meet the ball at its peak. He is extremely aggressive, as he showed during his performance at the Senior Bowl.

He ran a 4.65 and a 4.64 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, so his down the field speed can be called into question. He will also need to work on technique, making sure to adjust his game to fit the level of competition he will face on Sundays. Cyprien has a knack for registering his best games against the bigger opponents. The brighter the lights, the better he plays. He will certainly have his growing pains, but when you look at Godfrey’s numbers, it will not take much for the young safety to make the Panthers secondary stronger.

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Round 4, Pick 105: Akeem Spence, DT

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Brace Hemmeigarn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite re-signing Edwards, the Panthers are still in need of help on the defensive line, and Akeem Spence may very well turn out to be the steal of the draft at 105. He had 38 starts at Illinois, which is a testament to his talent and experience. He pressed 37 reps on the 225 bench test and he knows how to use that strength to disrupt opposing offenses.

He will undoubtedly make some rookie mistakes, but he has no glaring weakness that would cause any major concern. He is a strong young man with a great understanding of his position and he will only get better as he gains experience in the NFL.

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Round 5, Pick 141: Chris Harper WR

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Grabbing Austin in the first round gives Carolina a unique weapon and with Steve Smith on the roster the team will have two wide-outs in the 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10 range. LaFell has shown up for over 600 yards in each of the last two seasons, but getting Newton more targets needs to be a priority to get this offense rolling and Chris Harper fits that bill.

This pick could go a number of different ways, but with Harper on the board, the decision between cornerback, offensive line and receiver was made for them. There is no way they could pass up on Harper if he is there at 141.

Harper's top speed can come under fire, but he is strong, smart and has very sure hands. He will make a great possession receiver with room to grow. As an added benefit, Harper can also impact the run game with the size and strength to sustain blocks down the field, helping his backs get as much as they can out of each run.

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Round 6, Pick 172: Emmet Cleary, OT

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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With the franchise quarterback in place, it is a must that he receives the proper protection and thanks to the limited picks this year, Carolina will take a chance with their last selection. Emmet Cleary is ranked anywhere between the 160th player in the draft to the 323rd player, simply depending on which player ranking site you look at.

Look at Cleary and you can see why he rounds out the Panthers’ 2013 Draft class. He stands 6-foot-7 and weighs in at nearly 320 pounds, and has the quickness necessary to engage speed rushers as they try to get up-field. He is extremely versatile, having played at right tackle, left guard and left tackle in his career at Boston College. He is very intelligent and his combination of size and versatility makes him an intriguing pick.