The Carolina Panthers used their ninth overall pick to bolster their defense, selecting Luke Kuechly, a linebacker from Boston College.
Kuechly's tape leaves you guessing: are you looking at the young Zach Thomas or London Fletcher, or just another middle linebacker who records a ton of tackles because that's what starting middle linebackers do? The devil is in the details, like Kuechly's ability to read blocks or pass route combinations. Diagnostic skills can help a step-slow, pound-light linebacker thrive in the NFL. Kuechly can be very productive in a classic Tampa-2. He can also fly around the field and clean up after the defensive line in a Lions or Eagles type Wide-9 defense, though he would get walloped now and then.
Kuechly's upside is not great. He will never be Brian Urlacher. But the risk level is low. He will learn his role, play special teams as a rookie, and make the plays he is supposed to make. And if his college production is any indicator, a few more. Kuechly is a little better than the NFL comparison player below, but their play styles are similar.
NFL Comparison: Pat Angerer, Indianapolis Colts