After adding two key defensive tackles in rounds one and two of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers continued to improve their defense in round five, with the selection linebacker A.J. Klein. The 21-year old out of Iowa State was projected to go in the middle of the draft, despite being First team All-Big 12, each of the past two years. His athleticism was questioned by analysts, and while he may lack a little in that department, he more than makes up for it in other areas.
Klein was very good value for Carolina in round five. He should be able to come in right away and backup all three linebacker positions, while being an ace on special teams. I watched him numerous times in his career at ISU, and he brings a lot more to the table than even the stat sheet would tell you. He’s a player with a ton of heart, that possesses those intangibles you just can’t coach.
He’s not a player that really stuck out in this draft class, because there were several linebackers that were clearly more athletic than him, but he did run a 4.66 at the combine.
Klein recently commented on his doubters, and on being able to keep up with the speed of the NFL:
“I’ve always had people question my athletic ability but I think I’ve put those rumors to rest. Obviously, the Carolina staff and organization saw enough in me to draft me. Playing in a wide-open league like the Big 12, you have to be able to run and adjust on the fly. You have to make plays in space, keep your feet, take correct angles and be a solid tackler. That will definitely help me going into the NFL.”
He does have a point. The Big 12 is a conference that features a lot of spread offenses, and he’s no doubt faced a ton of future and current NFL talent.
Klein might be an unknown to the Carolina faithful right now, but that will change from the first time they notice him on special teams. That’s how he’ll get his start, but he should get more and more snaps as the season progresses. By the end of 2013, I won’t be surprised if he’s a regular in Panthers’ defensive rotation.
Can Klein hang in the NFL? You be the judge…
Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter