Last year the Panthers were lucky. The draft was deep at the position of the Panthers' biggest need - DT - and the Panthers got two players that made impacts last year (albeit one bigger than the other) and look to be long term solutions at a critical and underrated spot in football.
This year, it looks like the Panthers are double lucky! If you check out Mike Mayock's pre-combine tidbits, in #10 he says that the draft is deep in WRs and OTs. (Most of the other 11 points were, well, widely known information - such as his groundbreaking analysis that Kelvin Benjamin, Marqise Lee and Mike Evans "bring different things to the table" and "one or more of them may be available, but hey, in this instance he actually did give information that is useful to Panthers fans.)
Should we care what Mayock thinks? Well, a mark against him is that early on he was one of the chorus of guys that trashed Cam Newton, initially stating that he was not a top 20 pick. But to his credit, he changed his tune just before the draft, first admitting that Newton's intelligence wasn't an issue but maybe his desire was, and then finally making a complete 180 and listing Newton as his #2 prospect. Pretty good right? Unfortunately, Mayock had Newton #2 behind BLAINE GABBERT. Funny, huh?
Well, anyway, Mayock's opinion matches my own: that thanks to the large number of underclassmen coming out (and at OT certain guys like Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan coming back deciding to play their senior season last year) the draft is deep at OT and WR. Which means that the Panthers can get 2 quality players at both positions.
Of course, this is impossible with their current allotment of picks, as even Sid Gilman, Don Coryell, Mouse Davis and Mike Martz would not agree with the Panthers' using their top 4 draft picks on offense. And I am among those who never believes the claim that "depth in the draft at a position" means that you can reliably get good prospects past the 4th round, as teams just start grabbing BPA after the 3rd. (For example, the people who criticized the Kugbila pick last year ignored that there really wasn't a whole lot available at OL by then, especially if you exclude injured players like Barrett Jones and Khaled Holmes, who played in like 5 games between then last year.)
So double-dipping at these positions while still addressing other needs would require trading down multiple times to get extra picks in rounds 3 and 4, a route suggested by, well, me. (Or it would mean trading Greg Hardy for picks, something that Profootballtalk says should be on the table. And Pro Football Talk confirms that the Panthers have not started negotiating with Hardy yet. They haven't talked to Cam either and looks like they are not going to talk with Cam anytime soon either, as Cam is back at Auburn to attend classes. Anyone know what he is majoring in? Just curious.)
So just like last year, if the Panthers play their cards right, they can plug 2 of their 3 biggest remaining holes with guys that will help them out as rookies. And since the franchise tag deadline is in less than 2 weeks, we are going to have an idea pretty soon on how they are going to play those cards. We already know one thing: Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer is that his philosophy towards building a team is 1) build to win your division and 2) build to beat the teams on your schedule. And then he volunteered that the Seahawks are on the schedule this year. If we can recall the obvious deficiencies that the Panthers exhibited with the Seahawks (decent running game and defensive effort but only 125 passing yards due to terrible protection and no WR making plays downfield despite Seattle missing several guys in the secondary) then I wonder if Gettleman agrees with Mayock. As Gettleman shared Mayock's skepticism on Newton as late as last preseason (until Newton showed Gettleman how ridiculous it always was this season) then perhaps so!