As much as we love to speculate on who the Panthers will select in the coming draft we really can only guess at a number of possibilities. So I find myself taking a step back and asking what do I really know about how the draft team of GM Marty Hurney and HC John Fox operates.
1st Thing We Know: Never Reach for a Prospect Based on Need
You need look no further back than the 2007 draft see that the Panthers do not reach based on need. Most people agreed the Panthers desperately needed a safety in last seasons draft and emerged with only a 7th round selection.
"A year ago, safety was a need and we weren't able to address the safety position," coach John Fox said. "It wasn't that we weren't trying to. It just didn't fall that way."
Hurney explains the philosophy:
"If there are two players there and one is at a position that you have a lot of depth in and another is at a position you don't have a lot of depth in, then obviously you would opt for the one that you didn't have a lot of depth in," general manager Marty Hurney said Monday. "But again, only if those players are close in that same group. You don't blatantly reach and go down to fill a need."
I can agree with this philosophy to a degree. What if we had drafted Steve Smith in the 1st round? Sure, our GM at the time would have been flamed by every pundit in North America but in the end who would have been right? Steve Smith was obviously well worth a 1st round pick so getting him the 3rd was a bargain.
In the end we are looking for starters regardless of where they get picked. I worry about this philosophy for two reasons: (1) it can cause the Panthers to pass on a player of need because their draft board mistakenly shows the player being available later and (2) it doesn't seem to support trading up to get a player of value and need. If you look at Marty Hurney's draft history he has only traded up twice, going up three spots to get CB Chris Gamble and trading two 4th rounders for a 3rd to get DT Atiyyah Ellison. Otherwise the Panthers typically trade down.
2nd Thing We know: They really want a big back.
Don’t confuse ‘big’ with ‘size’. The Panthers are looking for more than good measurables:
"We use the phrase a lot of `playing big, running big,' " said general manager Marty Hurney. "There are a lot of guys who are 200 pounds (or) 205 pounds who run like 220-pound backs. (And) you can reverse that. Just because a guy has good size doesn't make him your `big back.'
"When you say `big back,' it's more of a running style."
The only question is whether they go early or mid-round to get one. In today’s NFL teams feel the need to field two quality RB’s that complement one another. The Panthers certainly have the fast, elusive RB in DeAngelo Williams but they lack the big, bruising RB to get the short yardage throw the tackles.
3rd Thing We Know: The Panthers Don’t Draft QB’s Early
Hopefully Matt Ryan will be long gone by #13 and spare us the drama of whether the Panthers will pick him. Hurney has drafted two QB’s, Randy Fasani in the 4th round (2002) and Stephan LeFlors in the 5TH (2005). We know how that went.
I'm not saying they won't pick a QB and try to groom him but in the end they prefer to draft a guy who has already spent a couple seasons learning on some else's dime (like they did with Jake Delhomme).
Charles Chandler thinks the Panthers will look hard at this guy:
Look for the Panthers to choose a quarterback. San Diego's Josh Johnson is an intriguing prospect projected to go during the middle rounds. He played in the Pioneer League.
Johnson's statistics last year are hard to fathom for any level -- 43 touchdowns and one interception. He threw for 428 yards and six scores, with 102 yards rushing, in a 52-49 win against Davidson. For his career, he had a 30-4 record, passing for 9,699 yards, 113 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said of Johnson: "He's going to play in this league. I'm convinced of that."
When John Fox says he is happy with his QB’s as is I don’t think its smoke. I’m not expecting the Panthers to take a QB but if they do I think it will be 4th or 5th round. Just for the record I hope its Tennessee QB Eric Ainge.