It was time for the Carolina Panthers to be examined as part of Pro Football Talk's draft breakdowns, and as expected it was Darin Gantt called to comment on the organization he used to cover. The positions needed aren't any different to the ones we've looked at for months: Defensive tackle, offensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, and safety -- but it's interesting how he looks at the positions.
The need for an offensive tackle is clear, and getting a future left tackle in the first round seems like a pipe dream. That being said, Gantt points to the unpredictability of this first draft under Dave Gettleman:
If Marty Hurney was still the general manager, you could probably bank on an offensive lineman with one of their first two picks, as he leaned heavily toward building a strong line. But since Gettleman doesn't have background of his own, his history with the Giants points away from using first-rounders on tackles.
Assuming Gettleman's history in New York holds, it's probably safe to count out the second-tier offensive tackles early -- namely D.J. Fluker. It would also preclude the selection of offensive guard Chance Warmack. While he's a fan-favorite, the organization have not showed much interest in him thus far.
After cutting the under-appreciated Chris Gamble, they need someone who can step up and play man coverage, and using the first-rounder on someone such as Xavier Rhodes from Florida State makes as much sense as anything else they'd do.
Rhodes has not been mentioned much on CSR, largely because it doesn't look like an early cornerback is on the cards. He would answer the team needs, but it's hard to imagine he'll be available at the 14th pick -- especially if Tampa Bay are unable to finally execute their perpetually rumored trade with New York for Darrelle Revis.
Finances have tied them to the OK Charles Godfrey at one spot, but there's a vacancy next to him. They tried bringing in veteran Haruki Nakamura to push former second-rounder Sherrod Martin, but all that yielded was Falcons highlights.
If Carolina do look to the secondary, it's far more likely a safety is in the cards. One name that surprisingly hasn't been linked to the team is D.J Swearinger. The South Carolina free safety is a local product, likely to be available at the Panthers' 44th pick, and is Josh Norris's third-rated safety in the 2013 class. Perhaps he'll be a late visit with the team.
the bust rate on drafted DTs is historically high, and they can't afford to miss without a full deck of picks.
Herein lies the problem with continually mocking a defensive tackle to the Panthers. The miss-rate is very high, and this is an exceptionally deep draft. The team could be far better served by double-dipping in the second and forth rounds, rather than risking big on a potentially great, but potentially flawed DT. Lest we remember that the locally-legendary defensive line had a free agent (Buckner) and second-round pick in Kris Jenkins, rather than a top-rated prospect.
Finally we come to the most contentious position -- wide receiver.
Smith's still good enough to be the guy, and frankly, Brandon LaFell is good enough to be the second option (his three-year stats are nearly identical to former Panthers wideout Muhsin Muhammad at the same stage).
But if they draft a receiver in the first round, it will begin the end of the Smith era in Charlotte, as the last wave of contracts given out by the previous administration start to be culled by the new guy.
It's hard to imagine the Panthers without Steve Smith, but that time is drawing close. Right now it seems the most likely selection, but now the question remains: "Who is it?"
In the end it's hard to see how Carolina can go wrong this draft, outside of taking large risks. Each of their last two first round selections were considered 'reaches' that ended up being gold -- so there's a chance we see another 'reach' in the form of Keenan Allen, or DeAndre Hopkins -- both regarded to be excellent players, but who are expected to go in the 20's.