It takes only a passing knowledge of the Carolina Panthers to understand where their glaring deficiencies lay. The inability to hold the point of attack, both on offense and defense is the single largest reason why the team lost nine games in 2012. At its most superficial level it would be here where the team would look to spend their draft picks early, especially in one of the most defensive tackle and guard rich drafts in recent memory -- but dig a little deeper and you'll see a high possibility the Panthers go after a wide receiver.
Releasing their first mock draft a few days ago, the collective minds of the NFL Network are leaning towards Carolina taking a wide receiver with the 15th overall pick -- only Charles Davis is sticking with a defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson out of Missouri. Initially the idea is hard to swallow, but at looking at the organizational structure it's possible the Panthers go in a radically different direction with their 1st round pick.
Dave Gettleman is not Marc Ross -- he didn't direct the New York Giants' college scouting, but it's shortsighted to think they didn't share a similar vision. Over-committing to receivers and defensive ends, the Giants' approach was to overwhelm teams with too many pass rushers on defense, and too many weapons on offense. Two days ago on WFNZ in Charlotte, wide receiver Steve Smith talked about his belief that a team can never have "too many weapons" in response to being asked if the Panthers should get another WR. It isn't a knock on Smith's age, or Brandon LaFell's ability -- but rather giving Cam Newton as many tools as possible.
New York's rubric for success was keeping the shelves stocked at wide receiver. Since starting for the Giants in 1997, this is the commitment the team made to the WR position:
- Two first round picks
- Five second round picks
- Five third round picks
Of their 120 total draft picks since 1997, the Giants have invested almost 15% of their draft in receivers -- and their methodology was to keep swinging until they hit. This may not be a draft with an A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson waiting in the wings, but with big-bodied receivers like Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Terrance Williams all slated to be on the board where the Panthers select -- it's possible Dave Gettleman sticks with what he knows, and keeps on swinging.
The depth at defensive tackle and offensive guard this year will be there. Like Luke Kuechly in 2011, the selection will be based on best player available, not need. The obvious choice last year was defensive tackle, and the obvious choice this year remains defensive tackle -- perhaps it's time we prepared to be surprised.