I read the Panthers draft guide and was shocked to see WR #10 on the list. Basically, this season went about like I feared when I made my various preseason posts on the WR position:
And that was based on my belief that Steve Smith would be the same dominant player that he was last year instead of having only 1 TD catch and disappearing for long stretches.
The Panthers have other needs? Of course they do. But what NFL team doesn't?
Yes, the Panthers have needs on defense, but their defense is playing a lot better than last year. The reason why they are 2-6 (with wins coming against the disaster area Saints and an injury-riddled Redskins team in a free fall) is because of lack of productivity and turnovers on offense.
On offense, yes the Panthers need help on the OL. But the Giants, Packers and Steelers won Super Bowls with OLs that were as bad or worse. The Colts were perennial contenders with bad OLs, and the Falcons are 8-0 right now with OL being the worst area of their team. All those teams overcame bad OLs with great WR play. You get the ball out before the pass rush gets there, and you open up the running game by forcing teams to defend the pass.
And yes, there is the fact that Cam Newton is not a "pro-style" QB. Or at least not yet. Expecting consistently elite reads, decisions and accuracy from Newton at this point in his career is folly. It isn't going to happen. So, Newton needs help: a group of very good WRs who make plays on the ball, open up the running game and take pressure off the OL. And yes, reduces the number of hits that Newton takes. Just because he is 6'6" 250 doesn't mean that those hits won't add up, just like they did on Daunte Culpepper.
The Panthers have one of the worst group of WRs in the NFL, and easily the worst group - by a mile - in the NFC South. Upgrading this bunch is a huge priority. Also, teams rarely make good WRs available via trade and free agency, and the Panthers don't have much cap room available even if they did. (Pardon me, but who on this miserable team is being paid so much money anyway?) So help is going to have to come from the draft. The problem is that unless you luck into getting an immediate impact guy like A.J. Green or Julio Jones, it takes a year or two. So if the Panthers take a WR in the first round in the next draft, it may not be until 2014 - Newton's contract year - before he is any real help.
Even 1 WR may not be enough, truthfully. If they could get a WR and a TE somehow by next season, that would be the very minimum. (Speaking of the TE issue, I noticed that there hasn't been any more "Greg Olsen = Jimmy Graham" talk. The Bears cut Olsen loose, giving up a former #1 pick, for a reason, and haven't missed him. (It is arguable that the Panthers would have gotten more from the 3rd rounder that they gave up to get Olsen.)
Yes, some of this is due to the "sophomore slump" when defenses get tape on a player and adapt to him. Some of it is due to the continued struggles of the OL, which causes them to use their RBs less. But Newton needs an NFL caliber WR corps, and needs one arguably even more so than a traditional dropback passer.