One of the new Carolina Panthers that fans may not be very familiar with, is linebacker A.J. Klein, who the Panthers took in the fifth round of this year’s draft. Klein went to school at Iowa State, and thus why most Panthers fans probably aren’t familiar with him. But just because Klein has been hiding in Ames, IA for the past four years, doesn’t mean he’s not a great addition for this Carolina team.
Klein was very good during his career at ISU. In fact, his efforts during his junior and senior seasons won him consecutive Big 12 defensive player of the year awards. He racked up 233 tackles during his final two seasons in college, but continued to fly under the national radar.
You would think that a player who won back-to-back DPOY honors in a major conference would have gotten a little more draft hype, but there were lingering concerns over Klein’s athleticism. Some scouts believe his game won’t translate well to the NFL, and that he’s just not quick enough to cover the speedy skill position players on Sunday.
With Klein though, it’s all about intangibles and just simply making plays. He’s not a guy who’s going to jump out at you during practice drills or combine workouts, he just simply makes plays when it counts. The Panthers already have a solid group of linebackers in place, but Klein should work his way into the rotation a reserve, right from the start. He’s going to be able to come in and compete right away on Sundays, and his playing time will likely increase as the season goes along.
As Klein heads into training camp, his biggest objective will be no different than any other rookie’s, as he’s just going to need some time to adjust to the pro game. I can see how scouts doubted him, but I’m willing to bet they’ll be proven wrong, and that Klein can indeed be a difference-maker for the Panthers.