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What Draft Strategy Should The Panthers Use? Should They Try To Fill All Needs Or A Few?

Typically, teams try to fill as many needs as possible during the draft. And - in my opinion - that is why most teams don't draft well. The draft is such a gamble that even hitting on half of your top 4 picks isn't guaranteed. This is because A) players that you really like turn out to be not that good and B) the player that you really like gets taken 2-3 spots ahead of you, forcing you to take a guy that you don't like as much in his place. The result of going into the draft thinking "OK, I have to address 3 or 4 needs/wants in this draft and will do so no matter what ... if I can't get a player to fill need A in the 1st round, I will fill need B in that spot and swing back around to fill need A in the 3rd round." Sounds good, but honestly it rarely works. The result is usually getting average or worse players in both the 1st and 3rd round.

Or is it better to focus on a single need - or a single area or side of the ball - and then grab whatever is left over when you are done? This is a curious question for the Panthers, who have a lot of potential but a lot of gaps. Do they try to fix all their needs (WR, OG, OT, TE, DT, S, CB)? Or do they say "we aren't Super Bowl contenders, but if we can pick one area to get better at next year, that may get us over the hump and push us into the playoffs!"?

Even if they had multiple picks - indeed a boatload of picks in the first 3-4 rounds - addressing all those needs would be difficult because of the sheer difficulty in identifying good prospects for all those different positions. It appears that the most likely path to success is picking a single area and focusing on that as your draft strategy, and then filling your other needs in free agency (to the extent that you are able) or simply waiting until next year.

For example, the Panthers could say "let's get better up front" and use their picks in the first 4 rounds on OLs and DLs. Or they could say "let's get better on our pass defense" and select a DT with pass rushing/pocket collapsing ability, a CB and a safety with those 3 picks (i.e. a CB in the 1st, a DT in the 2nd, a safety in the third). Or they could say "We need to improve our passing offense" and go WR, OT, TE. And so on.

You could do this and still dedicate 1 pick to another area. Say the decision is made to get better up front. You could take a CB or safety in the 1st, a DT in the 2nd, and the best OL on the board in the 4th. Or you want to upgrade the passing game. WR in the 1st, safety in the 2nd, best OL on the board in the 4th. And so on.

The Giants do seem to have this tendency. In 2010, the decision was made to upgrade their defense, especially their front 7, apparently, because they took a DE in the 1st, a DT in the 2nd, a DB in the 3rd, but an LB in the 4th and another DE in the 6th. 2009? Let's improve the passing game! They got WR Hakeem Nicks in the 1st, pass-blocking OT William Beatty in the 2nd, WR Ramses Barden and TE Travis Beckum in the 3rd. (They also took a LB in the 2nd. 2008 was the DB draft, as they took Kenny Phillips and Tarell Thomas in rounds 1 and 2. Curiously, they took a WR - Manningham - in the 3rd, and then took a pair of LBs in the 4th and 5th. 2012 was a "get better on offense" draft, as they took a RB, WR, TE and a pair of OTs in their their first 6 picks (with a CB in the third round being the exception). Similar trends can be identified in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2005. That leaves 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2011 as the only years this century where the Giants didn't focus on specific positions or position groups in a draft.

As A) the Giants are a successful franchise and B) the Panthers have a longtime member of the Giants front office as their GM and C) salary cap problems mean that the only way that the Panthers are going to improve their roster for the foreseeable future will be the draft, it is safe to say that the Panthers will take on this method, which maximizes chances of success.

It would be even better if Gettleman were to choose his area of emphasis on the positions of the draft that are strongest. No sense in going out and trying to improve the pass defense, for instance, if the DEs and DBs stink in a particular year. Ultimately, it looks like Gettleman will be a "fix an area" guy instead of a "best player available" guy. Since improvement in any of the several areas that the Panthers need help in will likely result in wins, that is a good sign for the future.

Do we have any hints where Gettleman is leaning? Perhaps. Signing all those DBs means that while Gettleman sees this as an area of concern, he isn't likely to do anything more than use a 1st or 2nd round pick on a CB or safety. There is a good chance that the Panthers may simply be trying to survive at that position until next season. WR? Same story. Gettleman signed a bona fide #3 WR in Hixon and a guy who can back up the #2 and #3 receiver roles in Ginn, Jr. The Panthers are better at WR than they have been in years, so the only "need" at that position is to find the eventual replacement for Steve Smith as the #1 WR, which like DB can be deferred for at least 1 more season (but if the Panthers see someone they really like in the 1st or 2nd round, they may still pull the trigger).

But OL? The Panthers have real trouble in that area (both now and in the future if the talk that Gross' new contract only guarantees his presence in Carolina for next season is true) and the Panthers haven't done a thing to address it. DL? More of the same. The need arguably isn't as great, as the Panthers do have 3 of the 4 starting positions taken care of and some depth, but the Panthers actually lost a starter off the DL from last season as well as gave up on a 3rd round pick DT after his rookie season, and again the Panthers have done nothing in free agency.

And further, where does the strength of this draft appear to be? OL and DL, with quantity and quality at both (though more so with OL). Meanwhile, the DBs and WRs don't look that great (the top prospects being a guy with 1 season on a team who fired their coach and a 5'9" guy from an air raid spread offense at WR should inform you of the latter, and of the former not that many DBs have a first round grade). That may justify getting the DB or WR early if they fall to you at #15 and filling the other needs later, but that generally has not been how the Giants operated.

Gettleman following his tendencies would make one believe that he will get a DT in the 1st, an OT in the 2nd and the BPA in the 4th.

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