So right now the Panthers are on pace to finish 10-6, and are currently the sixth NFC seed in the playoffs (yeah soak it in, we've been thirsty a long time). That would have them picking at around pick #23 in the first round.
Like I said before, saying "We need wide receivers more than offensive line" and vice-versa is irrelevant. WE NEED BOTH! So aim for the best player available out of either early.
The Panthers win streak has seemingly made players like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans a pipe dream. Meanwhile guys like Cyrus Kouandjio are not looking like the upper tier picks they initially seemed to be.
With that said, I believe our first-round pick could come down to three guys who may still be on the board at 20, and will likely be the best player available if they are: Eric Ebron, Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, and my defensive "darkhorse" pick Stephon Tuitt, the hog-mollie sized DE/DT from Notre Dame (6-6, 312).
My pipe dream is that teams fall asleep on Marqise Lee, and he becomes the stud that slides to us like Lotulelei did last year. His injury, questionable QB play, and big games from Watkins and Evans have caused perception on him to slip some, eerily similar to Robert Woods and Keenan Allen last year. Now those guys are ripping it in the league. Please let him slip, please let him slip...but we could get a nice consolation prize.
If Lee is really off the board, then I’d be inclined to go with Ebron here. The new breed of tight end is such a match-up nightmare for defenses, and Ebron would give us two. We are having difficulty finding elite wideouts, so just use two eliteTE’s and go back to the balanced 12 personnel groupings Cam thrived in during his rookie season. I believe Ebron and Olsen could co-exist together. Both have the ability to attack the intermediate and deep parts of the field, and they can threaten all areas of the field horizontally too (outside the numbers, seams, and over the middle). From the Tyler Eifert rumors last year, we know that a dynamic TE would not be ruled out if he were the best player available. Plus after the Keenan Allen saga last year, it's cool to imagine another guy from Greensboro having a big draft workout at Ricky Proehl's facility (with us getting more inside scoop from Dator).
2nd Round: Gabe Jackson, OG Mississippi St. (6-4, 340)
Even before this weekend's rash of injuries, guard was a questionable spot for 2014. I lack faith in Kugbila as anything more than potential depth. Silatolu being ready to start the season is unlikely. I was a really big fan of taking Larry Warford last year. This year we may be able to get a guy that’s even better. The Panthers finally have an offensive identity...we’re a run first team! Take the hog-mollie, plug him in at either guard spot, and profit. He would also make our interior pretty solid in pass protection (he grades out extremely well there too), which is important considering the amount of beastly DT’s the Panthers seem to face each year.
3rd Round: Kareem Martin, DE North Carolina (6-6, 265)
On the surface, it seems like an offensive tackle or a defensive back would be a greater need. But the strength of our team is the defense right now. And losing Greg Hardy instantly puts that strength into jeopardy. Plus I’m not sure there’s a specific offensive lineman or DB here that would be a better value than Martin. I’ve talked about my like for the Missouri pass rushers, Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Those guys seem so hot right now that they may push Martin down, to our benefit here. He has the size and the upside, and I think he could eventually help keep our trademark pass pressure dominant.
4th Round: Devante Parker, WR Louisville (6-3, 209)
I want to find out more about this year's OT class because it seems top heavy. There's 4 or 5 really good guys that will likely go rather early, and then I’m not sure anyone else is better than average as a future OT. Just finding one guy with starting potential at RT could change our offense (Still can't believe we blew it on Jordan Mills last year). I want to like JaJuwan James, the big RT from Tennessee here, but I haven’t been overly impressed by his play. Morgan Moses is a physically huge guy (6-6, 330+) that’s growing on me, and I could see him being Gettleman's pick in our real draft. He’s played RT and LT for Virginia, and has been getting it done in the running game. However in the spirit of BPA, I’ll personally go with Parker here instead.
Parker gives us a true outside the numbers big play threat. He’s been a go-to guy for Teddy Bridgewater when a play is needed, especially in the red-zone. He’s deadly there, and no one on our current roster has his size and ability on a fade route (Smitty running fades is a waste of time, yet the team still tries to do it occasionally). Add explosion, and hope you can find at least a serviceable run-blocking OT later.
5th Round: Billy Turner, OT North Dakota St (6-6, 314)
He’s been a dominant LT for one of the elite FCS teams, and he had a great game against an FBS opponent this year. He plays with some aggression, has been a four-year starter, and he comes from a winning pedigree. And being a 1st All-FCS lineman should not be overlooked. Beg Gross to come back for a farewell tour in 2014, and let Turner develop on the bench for a season. Perhaps he shows enough to be a starter in 2015. At the very least, he provides you with needed depth if you still decide to take an elite LT in the 2015 draft.
6th Round (from Giants): Daryl Williams, OT Oklahoma (6-6, 321)
Byron Bell needs some competition. Williams looked solid in the running game and in protection when I’ve seen him. Despite missing the final 3 games of the season last year, he was still voted as an All Big 12 Honorable mention. After Oklahoma’s loss to Texas this year, he openly questioned the teams’ effort, which I personally like. He played a solid game himself though from what I saw.
Another guy that really intrigues me is Cornelius Lucas, LT Kansas St. (6-8, 328). He's another big guy that fits the size that Gettleman is looking for. He pass protects better than what he's given credit for, but my concern for the Panthers is not seeing dominance from him in the running game.
6th Round: Keith McGill, CB/S Utah (6-3, 205)
He’s a former JUCO superstar that’s been really hampered by injury, and even some weight issues. But he has some speed, and the size that would have the attention of the Panthers. He would put you in the mind of Melvin White, who puts you in the mind of what the Seahawks have in Sherman and Browner. Give him a swing. He’s had a big pick 6 against UCLA's Brett Hundley so far this season, with a couple of passes defended.
Some UDFA’s to chew on:
Marquis Flowers, OLB Arizona (6-3, 221)
The more I watch TD, the more I believe he is the MVP of our defense. He makes splash plays in coverage, splash plays in the backfield, and can still make your consistent every play tackles. Unfortunately TD is 30, and is still playing on borrowed time with his knees.
Flowers could only dream of such aspirations. But he is also a safety-linebacker hybrid who can cover, make tackles, and rush the passer. (100 tackles, 13 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 INTs last year). 53 tackles, 5.5 TFL’s and 1 pick six this year. There are productive college OLBs that have gone undrafted lately (Keith Pough and Cameron Lawrence in 2013). Generally late round LB’s don’t work out, but take a chance on a guy with potential here. He's long and fluid with some speed, but he does need to become much stronger.
Jordan Najvar , TE Baylor (6-6, 265)
The big fella’s main purpose would be for blocking, where he is solid. He caught 10 balls for 2 TDs last year, 4 balls so far this year.