Since the off-season began we've continuously discussed what the Panthers need to do to improve the team for 2009. This post is one final discussion on positional needs using a recent Charlotte.com article as the base line. The post in question graded the Panthers draft needs by position using a 10 point scale. Since there doesn't seem to be any real method behind the grading I'm just going to present a counter argument that ranks need from the most important to the least. Of course a Julius Peppers trade could shake up the entire draft but I'm not going to bother with the infinite scenarios that would involve. Here's their view of the Panthers needs prioritized from the most important to the least:
I agree with the fact DT, OL, DE and CB are the top 4 needs, I would just put them in a different order. Early in the off-season DT was the obvious top need but the release of CB Ken Lucas and the loss of offensive line depth in my view changed the priorities. Of those four positions which is likely to get the most snaps in the regular season? I would say its the nickel corner given the number of spread offenses the Panthers will face in 2009. So I would order the top 4 based on number of snaps:
Nickel CB, DT, DE and then OL.
Beyond CB the Panthers need another body or two in their DT rotation. It will take an early pick to accomplish that which makes it obvious to most they will target that need at some point. The need for another DE is also obvious even if Peppers should stay.
Of course injuries like those experienced on the offensive line in 2008 can affect the depth of any position. I think that scenario from 2008 gives the Panthers extra incentive to insure they have good depth on the offensive line just as they did last year. Since they already have a couple young guys they are grooming I think the Panthers are more likely to seek a free agent or two for the offensive line rather than draft more depth (unless a guy slides like Ryan Kalil did).
The middle group of priorities in my view is quarterback and wide receiver. Though the Panthers would be happy with what they have in these positions already, if the right player was available they would and should pull the pull the trigger.
The bottom group are positions not in need and should only be draft targets if an amazing value is available, such as the Dan Conner pick last year. Many teams including the Panthers had a 1st round grade on Conner so the Panthers were quite amazed he was still there in the 3rd round. The same could happen this year with a RB, S, TE or LB.
At RB I would be happy letting Decori Birmingham get a shot at the 3rd RB slot. The kid looked good in TC and the pre-season last year so I see no need to target it this year. At TE we seem to already have two guys that can 'stretch the middle of the field' in Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge. If instead a really good blocking TE should be available late then that might be a good pick for those short yardage situations.
So what are your comments? I realize that basing these decisions on projected number of snaps is very short sighted but this is a key season for the Panthers (aren't they all?) They have a tough schedule from start to finish and could easily find themselves on the outside looking in if they do not address the depth issue on both sides of the ball.
On a final note I'll be live blogging the draft right here for most of the entire weekend so be sure to check in and see how things are progressing.