Draft Scout Snapshot: A closer look at the Panthers' picks: Round 1/14 -- Star Lotulelei, DT, 6-3, 311, Utah...The Panthers were very high on Lotulelei coming into the draft, but they weren't sure if he'd fall to them. When he did, they wasted no time taking him. He could provide the huge presence Carolina's been missing in the middle of its defensive line for years. - The Sports Xchange
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Draft Scout Star Lotulelei News
04/28/13 - A closer look at the Panthers' picks: Round 1/14 -- Star Lotulelei, DT, 6-3, 311, Utah...The Panthers were very high on Lotulelei coming into the draft, but they weren't sure if he'd fall to them. When he did, they wasted no time taking him. He could provide the huge presence Carolina's been missing in the middle of its defensive line for years. - The Sports Xchange
04/28/13 - During his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium Friday night, first round pick Star Lotulelei described his long journey from Tonga to the NFL. One of his stories included how, when his father moved his family to the United States when Lotulelei was 9, the now 6-3, 311 pound NFL first-round draft pick struggled to find his sports niche. "I didn't play too much little league as a little kid. I played maybe half a year of little league, and then we moved to a different area of Utah that didn't have little league," Lotulelei said. "I only started playing football, really, my freshman year of high school and I really wasn't that good. I just didn't understand the game, but my junior and senior year I really started to understand the game."
Lotulelei still has some learning to do. A stout run defender, he needs to improve his pass rush. But as a player who some considered a possible top-five pick before a health scare at the NFL Combine, the Panthers are sure glad he found a way to figure out the game of football. QUOTE TO NOTE: "You look historically at the Super Bowl champions and you show me one that's had a bad defensive front. It doesn't happen." -- GM Dave Gettleman, on his strategy of immediately improving the Panthers defensive line. - The Sports Xchange
04/28/13 - Draft falls right; Panthers get Lotulelei...As the first dozen picks of the 2013 NFL Draft came in, as offensive linemen and pass rushers came off the board, it was all falling into place perfectly for new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman. He would have his pick of guys he'd coveted with Carolina's 14th selection. Gettleman could go with who many considered the draft's top defensive tackle - Florida's Sharrif Floyd. He could take Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. Or he could go offense with Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. But when the Panthers officially went on the clock with the 14th pick, Gettleman's mind was clearly made up. It took about a minute for Carolina to turn its card in, a card that read Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah. "It's like when you guys met your wives. You knew," Gettleman told local media Thursday night.
Lotulelei was thought to be a top-five pick just a few months ago, but that was before a scare about a heart condition at the Combine. While some teams were scared off, the concerns were ultimately unfounded. "He had a virus, it affected his ticker," Gettleman said. "He was thoroughly checked out and our doctors felt very comfortable. He's fine, he's been completely cleared." - The Sports Xchange
04/28/13 - The Panthers have had a huge need at defensive tackle for years, and while former general manager Marty Hurney used free agency and some draft picks to try to fill the void, he never used a first-round selection on the position. In his debut draft, Gettleman made Lotulelei the first defensive tackle Carolina's used an opening round pick on, and now one of the team's former weaknesses is looking like a strength. Their front seven will be made up of ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy - who each racked up double-digit sacks last season, tackle Dwan Edwards - who had a career year in 2012, and linebackers Luke Kuechly, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis - all former first-round picks.
The addition of Lotuleli has to be especially good news for Kuechly, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year. He'll have significantly more room to roam if offenses commit two guys to blocking the 6-4, 311 pound Lotulelei. But the Panthers also hope their new defensive tackle will be able to help their pass defense. "We saw what it meant last year to have Dwan Edwards to have that inside push, now you can imagine we'll have a couple guys getting an inside push," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Now the quarterbacks won't be able to step up. They'll be sitting back there giving our ends the opportunities to make plays." - The Sports Xchange
04/28/13 - While Lotulelei's push could help the Panthers pass rush, that part of his game still needs work. "My strength is definitely on the run. My strength and my explosiveness, being able to hold the point," Lotulelei said, before adding, "I think I definitely have to work on my pass rush, getting upfield a lot more, getting a bigger variety of pass rushing moves."
Lotulelei was constantly double-teamed his last two years at Utah, but he still managed 20 tackles for loss. In his three years with the Utes, he tallied seven sacks, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. For Gettleman, who spent years building strong defensive lines as a Giants executive, Lotulelei's an essential piece of what he considers one of the most important parts of a team.
Since the picks in front of the Panthers fell so perfectly, they perhaps could have traded back and added to their total of just five selections in this draft, while still being able to nab a guy they wanted later in the first round. But just like when many men meet their wives, Gettleman truly did know. "If I have a dollar, I'd rather have a dollar than three nickels," Gettleman said. "When you trade back, you can think you're smart, but there's no guarantee. And from my view, Star was too good to pass up. Why talk yourself out of somebody good to be clever?" - The Sports Xchange