NFL Top 100 Players 2013: Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly at No. 86

Luke Kuechly

(Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Last season, the Carolina Panthers were originally seen as a team to keep an eye on when it came to sleepers who could possibly make a surprise playoff run. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for the Panthers, but if there’s anything to take away from the 2012 season–it would be they have a bright future ahead of them on defense with star linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Everybody knew Carolina had a potential star in the making last year when they selected Kuechly in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but nobody could have predicted him to emerge as quickly as he did during his rookie season. Kuechly wasted no time becoming the leader of Carolina’s defense before taking home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and he’ll play a key factor in how well the defense plays again this upcoming season.

The main focus of the Panthers over the last two seasons has been Cam Newton, but with the amount of competition in the NFC South, it’s no secret the only way Carolina is going to have a shot at the division is if they can perform well on defense. If Kuechly can perform at that high of a level as a rookie, just imagine what he could accomplish from here on out.

There was a reason why Carolina was willing to invest a first-round pick on Kuechly in 2012 and it may be early, but it looks like this move was certainly worth the risk.

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