It was a good draft. Let me get that out of the way right up front. I think the Panthers had a ton of needs entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and there was no way they could adequately fill all of them. They did the best they could to acquire talent at areas of need, and I think in most situations they picked one of the best players available whether it was a need or not. Walking away from the table with the best DT prospect and arguably the second best DE is absolutely nothing to be angry about. Beyond that, they added a ton of speed on the back end, and got several guys with a lot of position versatility.
The team undoubtedly considers this draft a success, and they should. That said, we still have a ton of questions marks that we will at least need to find competency to shore up, lest Teddy Bridgewater in particular find himself back on the training table.
The Offensive Trenches
Are truly offensive. Though it is interesting that we are least worried about who is playing tackle for the Panthers for the first time in a long time, we have an extreme dearth of known talent at guard, and will definitely need an upgrade at center in the long run. I expect that we’ll have at least one of our tackle selections playing guard next year, but will need to look to free agency for a reasonable rental in at least one spot. We cannot rely on any UDFAs to contribute this season, as that is a very suspect thing to do in even a normal offseason... much less one that is severely impacted by a public health crisis.
The good news is that guard is one of those spots where you can generally find some degree of competency even after the draft. Some guys will find themselves without a team soon due to their teams drafting their replacement, others will find themselves in that spot once roster cutbacks start taking place in preseason. Either way, it will need to be addressed if we want to maintain any kind of health for our offensive skill players.
Playing it loose at Tight End
We’ll enter the season with Ian Thomas getting his chance to showcase what he has learned over the last couple of years being tutored by Greg Olsen, which is something I am excited about. What I’m not excited about is anything going on behind him on the depth chart. It’s understandable we couldn’t look that way in the draft, even in the mid-rounds, it would have been a luxury... but our pipeline there is totally busted. Should we go after a still available veteran free agent like Jordan Reed or Charles Clay? Probably not. The Panthers are about as far away from a win-now situation as they can be, and it will be best to see what these younger guys can do.
Strange times at inside Linebacker
It is literally not possible to feel good about the linebacker position following the sudden early retirement of all-world future hall of famer Luke Kuechly. I am not sure I’ll ever get over it, even though I fully support the decision he made for his own health. What is most strange to me, is that I really cannot remember a time where the Panthers had a huge question mark at middle linebacker. Tahir Whitehead is a good run-stopping addition that behind our new defensive interior should be able to work nicely, but he is not even on the same planet as what we are used to having from a coverage point of view. We have truly been spoiled with great linebackers from franchise inception all the way until now.