2013 NFL draft: The Panthers difficulty in trading down

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

Amassing mock picks is a league-wide dream, but sitting at 14 makes the prospect very difficult.

The draft is a simple equation made complicated through layers of over-analysis. Distilled to its most base level, it's about a team looking at their needs, their picks, and blending the two to fill their gaps. For teams like San Francisco and Seattle it's an embarrassment of riches -- more picks than needs. For the Carolina Panthers, however, the ideal is to have the team gain more selections by moving down. This is easier said than done, and the 14th overall pick makes it particularly difficult.

In looking at any trade down scenario you need to ask "who is a team moving up for?". Some have postulated that the over-interest in wide receivers displayed by the Panthers is a 'smokescreen' -- a move desired to tempt a team to move up in the draft, and land them a trade partner.

Here's the fatal flaw with that thinking: A team would simply call Tampa Bay. Showing interest in receivers to prompt a trade is a zero-sum gain for Carolina, and actually hurts them by giving options to a division rival. Nobody will call the Panthers are try to essentially buy their pick, but they will leapfrog them, talk to the Buccaneers and move to the 13th spot if they believe the Panthers will take their favorite receiver.

Instead of focusing on the WRs, you need to turn your attention to defensive tackles, safeties, and guards. These three positions are those the New Orleans Saints could be looking at for the 15th pick, and where the Panthers could find a trade partner looking to leapfrog the Saints and nab their player.

So, who are the top options?

Sheldon Richardson

Possible suitors: Cowboys, Giants, Broncos

With multiple defensive tackles slated to be taken in the first round, perhaps nobody is more polarizing than Sheldon Richardson. The penetrating under tackle has all the physical tools to be an elite player at the next level, but questions about his maturity and lack of production could push him to the middle of the first round.

For a team selecting in the 20's, the appeal of landing an elite defensive tackle is there. These three teams have strong defensive leadership, and an environment where Richardson could thrive. The Panthers have some interest here, but in leapfrogging the Saints a team could guarantee his selection.

Kenny Vaccaro

Possible suitors: Cowboys, Rams, Bengals, Steelers

New Orleans have a need in their secondary, and Vaccaro would give them a roaming safety they could use. It also could be the Panthers best opportunity to move down in the draft. While Carolina could have some interest in the Texas safety, the better option would be to move back.

Here it's the Rams who make the most sense. They have two picks in the first round, and while the idea of getting those is a pipe dream -- Carolina could allow St. Louis to jump from the 16th pick to select Vaccaro ahead of New Orleans, giving them a third round pick they lack, while also putting the Panthers in a position to take their WR of choice at 16.

This is a calculated risk for the Rams who have significant interest in the WR class. They select again at 22, and there's a very good chance the WR board will be intact at that spot (barring Carolina's selection). If they like a few guys equally, there's a good chance.

Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper

Possible suitors: Cowboys, Bears

These could be two of the best players in the entire draft, depending on who you talk to. Offensive guard, however, is a low-priority position for much of the league. New Orleans needs more offensive line help for Drew Brees, and a guard isn't outside the realm of possibility with both Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans teetering on the precipice of 30, and carrying large salaries to boot.

The need for excellent interior line talent is vital for teams with statuesque passers and strong running games. It's here where the Panthers could capitalize. Granted, it's still an outside shot -- but it's a possibility.

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