Every year, fans and pundits turn to the NFL Draft as another way to immediately upgrade their teams. Numerous mock drafts spout out the same information in different ways, basing their information on common perceptions on each team's need.
In the Panthers case, it's the same old story. We need a DT. We haven't had one since Kris Jenkins manned the middle. We need to protect Luke Kuechly to make more tackles. These arguments ignore the fact that Luke Kuechly did just fine last year without a dominate DT, since he led the league with 164 tackles. It also diminishes the fact that the Panthers run defense was 14th in the league last year. Not great, but still better than the Lions (Suh), Packers (Raji), and Ravens (Ngata), teams with dominate defensive tackles taking up double teams. It ignores coaching and game planning. A team defense that keeps their gap integrity and technique on the line of scrimmage is hard to beat. You say what you want about Ron Rivera's game management, but he knows how to run a defense. The defense was tenth overall in the league and 13th in pass defense last year without its top cornerback and with Nakamura at free safety. I'm not saying it's not a need, and I believe the Panthers will probably invest a 1st or 2nd round pick on a DT. It's just a bit overdone by the media and fans. Jenkins left five years ago, it's time to let go.
Another old story that is touted every year is that we need another receiver to complement/replace/apprentice under Steve Smith. While Smith puts up solid to spectacular numbers every year and plays like a man possessed, fans lament about the need for someone to take away the double teams from Smith. So wait, do we not have Greg Olsen anymore? He did have 69 catches for 843 yards and five touchdowns, only behind Witten, Graham and Gonzalez at TE. He ranked 33rd in the league in receiving yards and 28th in catches, more than Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown. You know what also takes away double teams in pass coverage, a running game. We have Cam Newton, two first-round picks at RB, and a FB who is a touchdown and 3rd and 1 conversion machine.
What I'm trying to say is the draft is not solely to fill immediate holes on the roster with rookie starters that will surely be pro bowlers by the end of the year. The draft is used to build teams, from starters to top back-ups to special teams stalwarts. It's a way to accumulate talent without breaking the bank. It is the basis of any general manager's success or failure. Hurney's downfall was the period between 2008-2010, with regrettable trades that gave away two first round picks, two second round picks, and one fourth round pick in exchange for Jeff Otah, Everette Brown, Mike Goodson, and Armanti Edwards. Two years without a first round pick. Two years out of four without a second round pick. Five top 100 draft picks for four players who are no longer with the team or barely used. That is a complete waste of picks and a huge talent drain on the team. Top 100 picks should be starters or important rotation players in all three phases.
So what do the Panthers really need in this draft? They need what every other team needs. Cheap talent. Draft for value, accumulate depth. Just because we have Cam Newton doesn't mean we should pass on Tyler Wilson or Tyler Bray if they are available in the fourth round. Could you imagine Newton getting hurt and having a journeyman QB in Derek Anderson, or God forbid, the inept Jimmy Clausen running this team for the rest of the year? Just because we have three expensive RBs doesn't mean we should eliminate the possibility of drafting Gio Bernard(he's gonna be a star, trust me) or Marcus Lattimore. Do you really think DeAngelo Williams will be with the team in 2014 at his cap number? Do you trust Jonathan Stewart to stay healthy for sixteen games? Players get hurt every year. Players get released every year. Drafting well insures teams against the ever constant NFL roster turnover.