2014 NFL draft: Should the Panthers consider a safety in the 1st round?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Mocking a wide receiver to Carolina has been all the rage, but perhaps the first round pick should be invested in stopping them.

The Panthers could be looking at a wide receiver in the first round, but the more sensible decision based on past drafts is selecting a safety and making a strong defense even stronger.

Carolina has multiple needs. On offense it's easy to see where the weaknesses lie, a need to give Cam Newton more protection and better weapons to use in the passing game. It might not be the sexy pick on draft day, but electing to pass on an offensive player and bolster the defense is a sound move that makes the Panthers better immediately.

Both Mike Mitchell and Quintin Mikell were serviceable in 2013, however there's been a long-standing deficiency at the safety position in Carolina. A revolving door has led to a variety of different combinations and there isn't a true quarterback of the secondary with Charles Godfrey injured and almost assuredly a cap casualty in 2014.

It's a good year to need a safety. Four players are projected to be selected in the first two rounds, possibly more if teams take them higher than expected in the back end of the second round. Of these players there's two to watch -- either one could be available at the 28th pick.

We'll dive more into both prospects as the draft draws nearer, but start your research now.

Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Clinton-Dix is a stellar pass defender but lacks reliable tackling in the open field, something we've seen plague the Panthers secondary for the better part of a decade. This inconsistency may turn some fans off, but he's an elite talent at breaking on passes, which is why many draft analysts project him to be taken in the first 20 picks.

There's more to Clinton-Dix's game than just defending passes though, he was instrumental in playing up at the line of scrimmage for Alabama, where he proved to be very good at stopping opposing running backs. Sean McDermott has showed his propensity to use safeties in this way and it's something to watch.

Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Pryor has outstanding size for the safety position, but he's not dissimilar to Charles Godfrey in a lot of ways. He plays the pass very well, but tends to fall in love with his ability to hit -- meaning he has a tendency to lead with his shoulder in attempt to level opposing players, sometimes bouncing off.

Don't write him off for this element to hit game. Pryor is long, rangy and possesses underrated instincts as a pass defender. There are some things to work on, but solidifying these parts to his game could make him an elite safety in time.


Not taking a receiver might disappoint some fans, but it's a very Gettleman move. Receivers at the back-end of the first round are really risk, while safeties are pretty safe bets.

Since 2005 three safeties have been taken between picks 20-32 -- Brandon Meriweather, Kenny Philips and Harrison Smith. All three are still in the NFL and valuable starters on their respective teams.

Getting an elite safety could be the missing piece the Panthers need.

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