The NFL draft is filled with unfamiliar names, especially toward the later rounds. But I'm still not sure in 18 drafts that the Carolina Panthers have picked in an early round any player who is more obscure than Amini Silatolu, an offensive lineman for Midwestern State that they picked No.40 overall in the second round Friday night.
Did you know Division II Midwestern State was in Texas? Had you ever heard of it? Congrats if you have. I haven't, and I'm originally from Texas. (Turns out it's in Wichita Falls).
And offensive linemen, by design, are obscure unless they are being announced for holding calls.
But of course none of that matters. If a guy can play, he can play. Silatolu dominated Division II competition like Texas A&M-Commerce and West Texas A&M -- how many A&Ms are there, anyway?
He played left tackle in college but will compete at left guard to begin with, where the Panthers released Travelle Wharton in the offseason. Coach Ron Rivera said Silatolu is a "nasty finisher," capable of putting a lot of guys on their back. If you're an optimist, you may note that longtime Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen was also a D-II player.
Panther GM Marty Hurney is a proponent of drafting at least one offensive lineman every year and he generally does so -- Hurney believes that when your O-line goes sour you are generally dead in the water as an NFL team.
So here we go with Silatolu. It's a risk, for sure -- the Panthers are counting on Silatolu making an enormous leap from Division II ball into the NFL. But they thought it was worth taking. They used one of their 30 allowed "come-to-Charlotte" visits on Silatolu.
Now they will try to trade into the third round. Rivera laughingly put pressure on Hurney several times during a Friday night press conference to "work his magic" -- the Panthers currently don't have a third-round pick.