Over the last five years it's been popular to mock defensive tackles to the Carolina Panthers. They've routinely been one of the weakest run-stopping teams in the NFL, and yet never show the same attention to the position that other successful teams do. In 2011 they double-dipped in the third round, but Sione Fua has been underwhelming, and Terrell McClain is no longer on the team -- adding to the litany of poor play from their interior defensive line. As the 2013 draft approaches, the Panthers find themselves in the same position -- in dire need of defensive tackle help, but will they actually take one?
Pick the outlet, professional and amateur alike -- you'll find a defensive tackle heading to Carolina in the first round. Jesse Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Jonathan Hankins, and Shariff Floyd have all been projected to head to the Panthers, with a smattering of wide receivers in the mix for good measure. Herein lies the problem with projecting the team's first round pick: Do you put more stock in their team history, or Dave Gettleman's? Conventional wisdom is to stick with Gettleman, but look at his organizational history and you don't see any early defensive tackles either. In fact, of their four rotational defensive tackles, two were signed as free agents, and two were 2nd round draft picks.
The New York Giants' organizational philosophy was to build from the edges in; often eschewing the need for defensive tackles, linebackers, and interior offensive linemen in order to strengthen their receivers and pass rushers. While this approach didn't work in 2012, it's hard to argue with the approach -- and this makes it near-impossible to predict what the Panthers will do.
Unless Gettleman isn't convinced he can re-sign Greg Hardy, the pass rush is set. The starting tandem, rounded out with Frank Alexander give the team a lot of flexibility. However it's the wide receiver position that will be one to watch. While it may not be Dave Gettleman's decision wholly, firing Fred Graves as position coach says something about Ron Rivera's feelings on the receiver position. Making a change at WR coach could foreshadow a desire to give an early round pick to Ricky Proehl, and see how he can develop him.
It's another case of logic vs. actuality when it comes to the draft. Last year logic dictated the team would select Fletcher Cox when he was on the board, but they ultimately went again with the best player available (at least on their board). Which way will the 2013 draft go? There are too many variables, and too many factors to consider -- but as it stands there isn't a lot of evidence the organization will take a DT, even though it's the obvious choice.