Panthers reinforce LB corps with Luke Kuechly

The Carolina Panthers had plenty of needs to address in the first round of the NFL draft, the most pressing of which seemed to be along the defensive line and in the secondary.

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One area that didn't look like a priority -- on paper at least -- was linebacker, but that's exactly where the Panthers went with the ninth overall pick when they took Boston College's Luke Kuechly.

It was an interesting pick considering Kuechly made a name for himself at middle linebacker -- a spot currently manned by All-Pro Jon Beason, who is currently recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon. The Panthers also have two outside linebackers signed to multi-year deals in James Anderson and Thomas Davis, though Davis is trying to make an unprecedented comeback from a third surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney made it clear that Kuechly was an easy pick to make.

"We said we're going to take the best player. And he was the top player on our board at 9," Hurney said, via the Charlotte Observer. "He's just such an excellent football player and brings so many things."

Hurney said the suspect health of Beason and Davis did not factor into his decision Thursday, and coach Ron Rivera praised Kuechly's versatility, which could indicate the team doesn't view him strictly as a middle linebacker.

"We're not going to jump to any conclusions," Rivera said. "We're going to put the best football players on the field and we're going to play them."

"He has tremendous versatility," Rivera added. "And I think whether he's playing the Sam, the Mike or the Will for us, I think this guy has an opportunity to make an impact on our defense."

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