Up to this point I've tried to keep my feelings fairly muted (though they always shine through). We've looked at every possible prospect and analyzed the Panthers needs, but now it's time to talk about where my head is at with seven days to go.
This draft is weird
The class itself is totally fine, nothing too remarkable or shocking -- but it's very strange from where the Panthers sit, perhaps the strangest ever.
Picking late in the first round isn't a luxury that happens often in these parts. It's a product of seeing Carolina largely struggle for the better part of a decade. This made previous drafts somewhat easy to predict. Glaring obvious weaknesses pared with Marty Hurney's propensity to only draft players the Panthers met with created a scenario where there weren't many surprises.
Dave Gettleman is hard to figure out because he's so hands on. With only one draft in the books it's impossible to identify patterns. I tend to believe the team will take a player they've spent extensive time with, but it's just as easy to compile a scouting report and meet with a player at the combine and have a near-complete picture. Pair this with Gettleman's knack for film study and I'm not so sure a private visit or workout carries as much weight as it used to.
Ultimately Carolina have more needs than picks, not an uncommon position. Thankfully this draft is deep in many of the roster's weak areas.
I believe they still have no clue what to do and that's okay
We all want safety when it comes to the draft and hearing the board isn't complete naturally creates a feeling of uneasiness. From the outside looking in it conveys confusion and a lack of clear direction, but this is often simply reading too much into a situation.
Bad things happen when a team is drafting late and is married to a prospect. It's like going all-in on a pair of eights. These situations breed bad trades and strange decisions which sometimes pay off, but often don't. An incomplete board denotes flexibility, one more week to look at the class in totality. This is the right move when you have multiple needs.
I think a lot of people will be disappointed on draft night
We need to understand that we're the minority, the lunatic fringe. Visiting a Panthers blog and participating in social media makes you part of a rare group. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way, but understand that the VAST majority want the team to find Steve Smith's replacement in this draft.
There's two key problems here:
1. It's unlikely a rookie receiver will come in and make an impact year one.
2. I'm not so sure they even take a receiver in the first round, in fact I think it's a long shot.
The Panthers haven't been known to lie about draft picks over the last few years, which rules out the idea of a "smokescreen" however, there are definite lines to read between. When the team says there are a lot of receivers they have with a first round grade it's likely true, take that to it's logical conclusion and it means "We think there will be one available in the second."
One year ago the Panthers took back-to-back defensive tackles, a bold move that paid off. It was a sign that the team believes in the trenches. Taking a skill position player might get a quick positive reaction, but I think an offensive lineman is more probable.
What about defensive back?
That's the big question. Honestly, it's really hard to tell. Carolina looked at a couple of the top guys like Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- then worked out guys slated to be taken far later.
There's a very real possibility one could fall and if I had my money on one it's Clinton-Dix. Most mock drafters have him in the 10-15 range, but if a few teams go in a different direction there's a big slide to the next team in need. The Panthers could capitalize similar to Star Lotuelei, where lack of need and injury fears pushed him down.
Cornerback is a dire need, but I almost hope they hold out. Pierre Desir worked out privately with the Panthers as did Ross Cockrell -- two guys I really like in the 3-5 round range.
When it's all said and done...
The draft is a fun time. Sadly the extra month delay seems to have stripped a lot of that fun away from the event. Yes it's more of a money-making venture now, but the over-analysis makes the whole event seem like a much-needed conclusion rather than a crescendo.
I'm looking forward to next Thursday to see who the Panthers pick and whoever it is we'll support, because it's the black and electric blue.