The Panthers have had a very dramatic offseason. Many fans including myself were left scratching their heads and wondering what exactly GM Dave Gettleman’s plan were, but all will be forgiven if Carolina gets off to a nice start in tonight’s NFL Draft.
There are three key areas of need for this team: wide receiver, offensive line, and help in secondary. The slim receiving core and a depleted offensive line are likely the Panthers’ biggest issues, however, especially considering the losses of Steve Smith and Jordan Gross.
While Gettleman did a decent job at filling the gigantic hole at wide receiver with Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood, and Jason Avant, there is still not a #1 receiver on this roster. However, we do have one of the best collections of number three wide receivers assembled in NFL history.
I expect the Panthers to take at least two wide receivers in this year’s draft. Solid candidates at the position include Odell Beckham, Jordan Matthews, and Erik Lora. If we could take either Beckham in the first or Matthews in the second, and then scoop up Lora in the late rounds, Cam will have plenty of weapons at his disposal next season.
The offensive line is more than likely going to be the most coveted position in this draft. The Panthers lost almost their whole offensive line from last season, thus guaranteeing a double or triple dip at the position in this year’s draft. With few moves to address the line in free agency, it is safe to say that Carolina is in desperate need for some big bodies to fill out the line next season.
There are too many solid offensive lineman to list all of them, but one late-round guy I see potential in is Matt Hall out of Belhaven, a big 6’10 beast with the potential to eventually start at right tackle one day in the NFL. Look out for him in the seventh round or maybe as an undrafted free agent.
Though the Panthers had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, the secondary certainly wasn’t spectacular. However, upgrades have been made at safety with the signing up both Roman Harper (even if you hate him) and Thomas DeCoud. Add the return of Charles Godfrey and all of a sudden we have a solid safety group. However, I don’t expect a pick to be used here unless it is a “best player available” situation.
The cornerback slot is still in question with the loss of Captain Munnerlyn. You can make the case that Captain’s loss can easily be overcome, especially with the signing of the more talented Antoine Cason. Let’s not forget Melvin White is going to continue to progress as well, and probably becoming a solid starter someday in the NFL. I think the CB position is improved but still could use one young prospect added to the group. More than likely it will be a position not addressed until the third round or later though with guys like Pierre Desir, Antone Exum, Jamea Thomas, E.J. Gianes, Louchiez Purifoy, or Chris Davis.
On a side note, if we draft Chris Davis out of Auburn, he will instantly become my favorite Panther for what he did the Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Some other positions to look out for are defensive end and tight end. With Greg Hardy possibly in his final year and Frank Alexander getting suspended, do not be surprised to see a defensive lineman selected by the Panthers.
Here are a couple keys for how you should treat this year’s draft as a fan:
Best Case Mock Draft
In a perfect scenario, the Panthers draft two wide receivers, three offensive lineman, a cornerback, and then one “best player available,” player: