Whether OL, DB Or WR In The Draft Gettleman Should Pick A Position And Run

Here is a simple fact: the Panthers cannot remake their roster in one offseason. They do not have extra picks in the first 3 rounds (especially in the "value" areas), nor do they have much cap room. Moreover, even if they could radically alter their team in one offseason, there is little evidence that such radical makeovers work. Building an NFL roster isn't like building a fantasy team. It takes time for rookies to pick up the game, and it takes time for veterans to assimilate into a culture.

So the idea that the Panthers are going to plug all their holes this offseason by hitting on each of their top 4 draft picks and having a guy in picks 5-8 (they have a pair of second round picks thanks to trading Beason) perform better than expected isn't realistic. Evidence of this: go research the various "greatest draft classes in history" articles, and in the process exclude teams that drafted in the top 10 (as the Panthers draft 28) or who had boatloads of extra picks like the Cowboys of the 1990s (and a lot of people forget that the Cowboys didn't hit on all those picks but blew several by the way). Now one of those was indeed the 2007 Giants draft that played a key role in that organization winning a Super Bowl and got Jerry Reese the GM job. That outstanding draft? Aaron Ross, Steve Smith (the other one), Jay Alford, Zak DeOssie, Kevin Boss, Adam Koets, Michael Johnson, Ahmad Bradshaw. Now the injuries to Smith and Bradshaw that curtailed promising careers cannot be blamed on the Giants, but still: that draft produced 4 solid starters, none of whom were Pro Bowlers and all were complimentary players. (One curiosity out of that class is that it had 2 guys with good long-snapping skills.) The reality is that if the Panthers get a similar class, they should be very happy.

With that in mind, the best way to improve the team is not to try to get better at all the positions at once. Instead, the Panthers should pick one position and emphasize on it. And that position should be a position where there is depth at quality positions in the draft. Of course, they should not restrict themselves to that position (because unlike the last 3 years the Panthers have picks in each of the first 3 rounds). In other words, repeat what was done last year!

By doing this, the Panthers can A) turn a weakness into a strength and B) protect themselves in case one of their draft picks gets hurt or doesn't contribute in the first year.

So enough with the fantasies that the Panthers can get an above average NFL WR in the first, OT in the second and CB in the third. (Or whatever your priorities are.) Instead, the Panthers should pick one position and use multiple high picks on it.

OL is the main need and/or the main position of weakness on the team? Then get OTs in the 1st and 2nd round, or at least the 1st and 3rd. WR? Then get Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st and one of the guys that has been compared to Eric Decker (Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis) in the 2nd. Upgrading the secondary is the biggest issue, especially if the team loses Greg Hardy? Then get 2 CBs, or failing that a CB and a safety.

One thing that finally having 4 picks does is allowing the double-double up. You can go WR, OL, OL, WR. Or OL, DB, OL, DB. That would be ideal in my opinion. The key is for the Panthers to decide which positions they would most benefit from getting dominant at, and which positions that the team can win without.

I have to say, from a dispassionate standpoint, that as much as getting weapons for Cam would be exciting, the reality is that the Panthers need to upgrade the OL to take advantage of their investment in Double Trouble plus Tolbert (whom they will have for the next 2 seasons at least) under the salary cap. Also, the strategies and schemes that they used to get through this season with minimum salary players - from way past their prime veterans to undrafted rookie free agents - in the secondary are not sustainable. (I know, they get Charles Godfrey back, but if he isn't released in a salary cap move I will be shocked.) As a matter of fact, New Orleans and San Fran had them figured out by the end of the season and attacked them directly with disastrous results. (Fortunately, the playoffs and division clinching rematch against New Orleans was in Carolina and in bad weather.) And in addition to the Saints, next year the Falcons will have Julio Jones and Roddy White back and healthy. And as the rare dual threat QB who can go through his progressions and make plays from the pocket, Cam Newton doesn't NEED great WRs to be effective. He needs better WRs to be more than merely effective, of course, but right now the passing game is effective already. The same cannot be said about the running game without Cam Newton's rushing (both the actual yards and the threat thereof) or the secondary without the Panthers' pass rush (the Panthers were one of the few teams last season to rarely blitz, but instead applied as much pressure with the front four as possible, using the safeties and at times the LBs to give maximum help to the secondary, and again that is not sustainable).

This may not be the way that Gettleman is leaning, especially since Gettleman promised to give Cam more weapons this offseason. If the Panthers draft OLs and DBs with their first 4 picks, who knows what the response will be. So if Gettleman decides that drafting a couple of WRs (or more intriguingly, a WR and a TE) and outscoring people is the best way to improve, then hey he is the expert. But the main thing is that Gettleman should repeat his successful strategy of concentrating his high picks on single areas of the team. This team has 4 problem areas right now (RT/LT, WR/TE, RCB/LCB, safety with coverage skills) and there is a much greater chance of fixing one or two of those areas with multiple picks than of fixing all of them with one pick.

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