This past season twelve different Carolina Panthers caught a pass from Cam Newton. I realize and agree that there is a need for an heir to Steve Smith and a true number one receiver for after 89 hangs em' up. However, I don't believe this is the year Carolina takes a receiver early in the draft (rounds 1 or 2). To put it simply, there already aren't enough passes to go around in this offense with our crowded wide-receiver core and armada of running-backs. Couple this idea with seemingly bigger holes on our roster elsewhere, and I seriously doubt we invest in a top WR prospect early in the 2013 NFL Draft. I repeat: I believe there is a BIG need for that true #1 receiver that can develop and have a long career catching balls from Cam. Despite that, this year we don't draft him...and here's why.
- Right now our WR core is crowded and unproven. It is largely made up of guys that Carolina (Hurney) has drafted. Just by watching film of this season and looking at our roster, I don't think that Gettleman will believe these players were utilized properly under Rob Chudzinski. I think the 2013 season will tell us exactly what we have at the receiver position. Is LaFell a number two or is he a third? Is Joe Adams really a weapon we can use to our advantage? Does Armanti finally contribute consistently? Is Gettis really the deep ball threat he showed glimpses of with Jimmy Clausen at the helm his rookie year? Can Pilares continue to pick up yards after the catch when given the opportunity? Does LaMont Bryant excel in training camp and earn a roster spot? Quite frankly I believe our new general manager goes into next year with these guys and possibly another late round receiver + a cheap veteran free agent. 2013 will be the season we as fans and an organization really find out who is here to stay and who won't be a Panther for the coming years.
- I'd rather figure out, and Gettleman may agree, who emerges on our receiver core from the guys above while filling other needs elsewhere that will have more of an instant impact. Our defensive tackle position has been ignored for far too long. Dwan and Ron Edwards performed admirably last year but its uncertain whether either of them will be back and they are both older. Ron will likely be a cap casualty but I suspect we sign Dwan again. We need an infusion of talent at this position because Fua/Kearse/Neblett are far from long term solutions. A defensive tackle at 14 would solidify our line and allow Hardy and CJ to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. I just tend to believe that a WR at 14, especially this class of pass-catchers, would have a difficult time getting enough touches and playing time to make more of an impact this season than a defensive tackle.
- If Captain is not resigned and Chris Gamble is released, which seems likely because of our cap situation, are you honestly comfortable with Josh Norman and Josh Thomas being our two corners going into next season in a division with the likes of Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Marques Colston? I'm not. Sure, both played decent this past season but I tend to think that was more of a product of our defensive front getting pressure consistently. I do believe there are some decent options at corner we could pick up in free agency but that all lies with Gettleman and co. Once again, I think a corner in the first or second round is a real possibility and would have more of an instant impact on our team than a WR that is not an elite prospect fighting for playing time and catches in a crowded offense.
- Our offensive line struggled mightily this year. Now, getting Kalil back in the middle will be huge for our front five but I'm still not sold. Gross is aging but I think Silatolu's development from year 1 to 2 will make Gross serviceable for at least this upcoming year. The weak link with Kalil in the line up is Hangartner. Cameron Newton is this franchise's most valuable asset and he needs to be protected at all times. I believe we address the right guard position in the second or fourth round this year and he will be an instant plug and play starting guard.
- Charles Godfrey is decent but frequently overrated by this fan base. He is consistently ranked among the lowest safeties in the league come season's end by Pro Football Focus. DJ Campbell looks to be a smart player and he played well down the stretch after Godfrey moved to to FS and he took over at SS. However, if the reports that Barron was #1 on our board before selecting Kuechly last year are true, Rivera and his staff believe that safety is a major need and I don't think he saw anything this season that would make him change his mind.
- Cam Newton. When he has time in the pocket and can set his feet he is as accurate as anyone. With another off-season and plenty of reps, I think Cam takes his passing to the next level and we see steady improvement in his short and intermediate routes. Ultimately Cam has the ability to make our receivers look better than they are if he can stay upright and move up in the pocket. Cam was hit more than any QB in the game last season and his protection will go a long way towards making this group of wide receivers better than they may actually be.
Round 1: DT
Round 2: Safety
Round 4: Guard
Round 1: CB
Round 2: Guard
Round 4: DT/S
Round 1: Guard
Round 2: DT
Round 4: CB/S
Honestly I think it is the Panther's best interest is to trade down from 14 into the mid-twenties and pick up a third. If we were to select guard, safety, defensive tackle, and corner in no particular order with our first 4 selections...I think it's not too unrealistic to expect all four of them to start.