Looks Like The Panthers Will Go OL In The First Two Picks Of The Draft

Here is my reasoning.

1. The Panthers have basically stated that Greg Olsen will be the #1 receiving option in the passing game. Ron Rivera has tipped his hat by stating that the Panthers do not need a true #1 WR.

2. From the perspective of Gettleman, who comes from an organization with a history of strong WR play at the X, Y and Z positions, the Panthers did not have a true #1 WR last year. Steve Smith was effectively a #2 WR with Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn effectively #4 WRs.

3. At this point, Gettleman likely figures that he has 2 WRs that are better than LaFell in Cotchery and Avant and a WR that is almost as good as Ted Ginn, Jr. in Tiquan Underwood. It is notable that all 3 WRs are not only above 6'0" (though not much above it) and more importantly, unlike 5-11 Ginn, Jr. and 6'2" LaFell, consistently play like it. Cotchery and Avant are veteran possession WRs who do not stretch the field, but get open, and do not disappear when DBs are physical with them or when they are in traffic. That there is no one as good as Steve Smith was last year is a problem, but having 3 reliable guys in Cotchery, Avant and Olsen is at least the equivalent of having only 2 (Smith and Olsen) last year, even if Smith is better than Cotchery or Avant. The reality is that often times, it seemed as if the Panthers were only playing with 2 pass catchers last year, so having 3, even if none of them but Olsen rate as anything special, is no worse than standing pat.

4. The Panthers will take an OT in the first round. With Byron Bell moving to LT, the RT options are pretty much nonexistent beyond guys currently on the roster. The Panthers may be able to find a one year stopgap solution in the draft, but they are likely going to go for a long term fix. Also, the injury to Cam Newton and the need to finally get the running game going consistently by getting NFL caliber guys on the right side is a premium, as is the ability to have enough protection to use play action to help the Panthers' pedestrian WRs. With Bell at LT, the next best option at RT becomes either Nate Chandler or Garry Williams.

5. What about the promise to get Cam weapons this year, made by Gettleman last year? I actually do believe that Gettleman will desire to get a WR in the 2nd round, as the Giants frequently did draft WRs in the second. However, I think that there will be a run on WRs in both the 1st and 2nd rounds, and when the Panthers' pick comes up at the bottom of the 2nd, the guys left will have 3rd and 4th round grades. So, Gettleman will take the highest rated OL that drops; an OT that will also be able to play OG. There are some advantages to this, namely that the Panthers would have some measure of protection if Silatolu and/or Kugbila are not the answer at OG, and Byron Bell will be an UFA next year with 4 years experience as a starter at both OT spots and offers some size and athleticism, and the Panthers will not want to overpay to keep him, which makes the 1 year stopgap approach at RT less likely to be pursued.

6. Getting value at OT will be chosen over panicking and reaching on a WR because it fits Gettleman's philosophy of building from the inside out first anyway.

7. The elite depth at the WR position is overrated. There are actually only 7 guys to get really excited about: Watkins, Evans, Beckham, Cooks, Lee, Benjamin (I know, I know), Robinson, and Matthews (whose stock has dropped from being a late 1st round pick to a possible 3rd rounder due to workouts that have scouts questioning his athleticism). Believing that all 8 will last to pick #60 is asking a bit much. (Well, Matthews might, but Gettleman may have soured on him along with everybody else.) Guys like Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, Sidney Moncrief, Paul Richardson, Bruce Ellington, Jared Abbrederis, Kevin Norwood, Mike Davis, Devin Street etc. are good prospects, but not at #60. Or at least not as good as JaWuan James, Antonio Richardson, Jack Mewhort, Joel Bitonio, Morgan Moses or even Billy Turner are at #60.

8. However, once you get past the elite depth, the difference between what you will get at the end of round 2 and the end of round 4 is minimal. Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, Sidney Moncrief, Paul Richardson, Bruce Ellington, Jared Abbrederis, Kevin Norwood, Mike Davis, Devin Street, Cody Latimer ... any 2 of those are about the same. It depends on what you want: a role player (such as to stretch the field) today, a #2 or #1 WR tomorrow, a diamond in the rough, etc. The Panthers have their top 3 set and can grab 2 guys to compete with Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt for playing time/roster spots. The Giants tended to grab guys with size and a degree of polish (but not quite finished products) in the middle rounds, and value those attributes over top-end speed. That would lead you to believe that they will be looking more at Bryant (if he drops), Street, Davis, Abbrederis, Norwood and Latimer and less at some of the guys that I like such as Ellington and Richardson.

This is not ideal, but not a disaster either. The Panthers will pound the ball with the running attack, use a possession passing game, and lean heavily on a defense that should be even better than it was in 2013 (it will have to be, especially with respect to pass coverage).

9. Oh yes, do not rule out the Panthers' getting a second TE in the draft also. Trey Burton in rounds 5-7 is the guy that I really hope Gettleman knows about.

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