First Round: DJ Humphries, OT, Florida
I'll admit this isn't my favorite of picks. But it's what I think Gettleman would do if the draft plays out like I'm guessing. Let me explain:
We can surmise from Gettleman's comments that he was set to draft Ju'wuan James last year over Kelvin Benjamin @ 28 if he had been on the board. James was widely viewed as being in the second tier of offensive tackles (behind Morgan Moses) by the media throughout the draft process. He played mostly RT at Tennessee and was not viewed as being overly athletic. He ended up being the fourth and final tackle drafted in the first round at pick #19.
James would have filled a massive roster need at LT. Some here would say that signing Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin and losing Byron Bell solves this issue. And while I hope that view is proven correct, I completely disagree. I think Oher is a very minor upgrade from Bell and Martin will never be more than a backup. Meanwhile, Remmers started strong last year but his performance faded down the stretch (as the quality of defenses we faced improved). Remmers will likely be on the roster but I do not think he has the starting gig locked up at RT.
Last season showed that we cannot afford to go into a season without solid starters and with a lack of depth along the offensive line. It remains a critical need and I think the draft this year will enable Carolina to draft a long-term solution at LT.
In my view, there are five OTs worthy of a first-round pick: Brandon Scherff (might be a guard, but I think he can stick at OT), Andrus Peat, La'el Collins (again, G/T), Ereck Flowers, and DJ Humphries. I listed those in my order of preference - so this pick assumes the prior four OTs are off the board. I would take any of the other OTs over Humphries.
I think Fisher, Ogbuehi, Clemmings, and Smith are second round talents (I have fisher as a borderline first round OT - I think lack of experience could be an issue for Gettleman).
All of the tackles in this year's drafts have flaws. You don't get perfect players late in the first round. Kelvin Benjamin is a great example of that. But Humphries has LT feet and athleticism and has proven himself in the SEC (no small school linemen early, please Gettleman). It remains to be seen whether he can add good weight and strength which is why he is available here - but I think the risk/reward is balanced at the end of the first round.
Protecting Cam needs to be priority #1 - especially once we give him a massive contract next offseason. Humphries / Norwell / Kalil / Turner / Oher or Remmers gives the Panthers a league-average offensive line, which is a vast improvement from what we fielded for much of last year.
Also, it's worth nothing that Igo has recently backed off his comments from a while back that the Panthers didn't like Humphries as a first-rounder. This might be a case of the Panthers revising their draft board as the scouting process has evolved.
Second Round: Shaq Thompson, LB/S, Washington
I personally want a WR here but I think WRs will go earlier than anticipated this year after the success teams had in the 2014 draft. So while I've liked guys like Agholor (potential late first round), Smith, Strong, and Dorsett (2nd rounders) throughout the process, I don't think the Panthers have a chance to draft one of them.
The offset? Talented players at other positions fall. And while many on this site would love Shaq in the first, I think he could very well fall in the draft because he doesn't have a defined position. He didn't test like an outstanding athlete as many had anticipated. And he doesn't yet have the instincts you want out of a first round LB.
However, the upside is obvious - and the Panthers know a thing or two about LB/S hybrids. Like Kony Ealy last year, the questions could cause him to fall to the Panthers in the second. And like Kony, Shaq probably doesn't start in year one but he'll be on the field a decent amount in some capacity - sometimes as a box safety, sometimes as a nickel backer, and sometimes as an OLB with Davis and Kuechly.
Note: I'd also love to draft Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State in the second round but I think he and Odighizuwa will be drafted in the second round by a pass rush needy team that goes offense in the first half of round one.
Third Round: Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU (Panthers trade fourth and fifth round picks to move up into the bottom half of Round #3)
Hunter is an extremely athletic DE who need major help with his technique. He would fill in the back end of the DE rotation in year one and would be someone the staff develops over several years to take over when/if Charles Johnson moves on. I think Gettlman views DE as a need on par with OT and WR and I think you can count on the Panthers getting one in the top four rounds.
Third Round: Justin Hardy, WR, ECU -- or -- Tre Mcbride, WR, WIlliam & Mary
Gettleman finds value at WR2 by not reaching for a WR after a run at the position in the first two rounds. Both of these guys have the talent to contribute in year one. Hardy can be a WR2 by production even if he spends a good amount of time in the slot (Randal Cobb and Jordan Matthews are slot receivers). I view Hardy as a slightly less talented Jarvis Landry. That's great value in the third round. Mcbride is a small school receiver that has the tools to surprise at the NFL level. I think either of these guys would be an upgrade on Cotchery though they may not be listed as starters until the second half of the season.
Fifth Round Compensatory: John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State
We've been told the Panthers will add an RB in the draft. I have no idea which RBs will be available at this point but I'm going with Crockett for now. This is a very deep draft for RBs so this feels like the right time to add some depth at the position. I also like Cobb, Davis, Langford, Artis-Payne, and Josh Robinson as guys that could be there in the fifth round.
Fifth Round Compensatory: Craig Mager, CB, Texas State
Good size and athleticism for the position. He would probably play ST and spell Bene at nickel in year one if Tillman mans the CB2 spot. You can never have enough DBs and I think he's a great value at the end of the fifth.
Sixth Round Pick: Ibraheim Campbell, S, Northwestern
I think Campbell is underrated and could develop into a starter over time. Not the fastest 40 time which is why he could be available late but is billed as having good instincts in coverage, which is supported by 3 INTs and 3 PBUs (and 4 forced fumbles) in just 8 games last year. For reference, he had 5 PBUs and 4 INTs in 2013 and 12 PBUs and 2 INTs in 2012, and 4 PBUs and 2 INTs as a redshirt freshman. Over 300 career tackles at the safety position.
Seventh Round Pick: Laurence Gibson, OT, Viriginia -- or -- Chaz Green, OT, Florida
The Panthers have been linked to both players. When Foucault and Nate Chandler are credible threats to make an NFL roster, you know your team has depth issues. Havenstein (Wisconsin) could be a good late-round addition but I don't think he makes it to the end of round 7.