Just wanted to share some of my thoughts and musings about the upcoming draft.
With the 6th pick of the draft, there are obviously a number of approaches the team can take and the path we take will largely be influenced by first 5 selections.
The first option would be taking best player available. In the past, there have been some top talents in the draft that were considered "draft no matter what" type picks of they fell to us. I feel this was the case with Luke, Star, and maybe even Horn in last year's draft. These were obviously the team's best player available options. In this draft however, I do not see that "draft no matter what" type player. Could the Panthers have that high a grade on DE Aidan Hutchinson, DT Travon Walker, S Hamilton, CB Gardner, WR Wilson? Possibly, and that could throw a huge wrench into the rest of this post.
The second option is drafting for need. In this scenario, you have to look at a large number of factors including how deep the draft is at certain position groups while having a proper sense of our current team strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, the top needs for the Panthers are LT and QB. But the team could use upgrades at a number of other positions including LB, DE, S, TE, G.
Here is where I think the Panthers could maximize value and need. IMO there are 4 players in this draft who have a very high chance of succeeding at the left tackle position. Charles Cross, Ikem Ekwoni, Evan Neal and Bernhard Raimann. The question and gamble of the draft would be, how far could we trade back and still have a high probability of drafting one of these starting quality LTs?
Here is a quick breakdown and draft analysis purely from the standpoint of teams that could possibly draft an LT.
1. Jaguars: team needs: DL, LB, S. This team just used the franchise tag on Cam Robinson for the second time. Likely set at LT.
2. Lions: team needs: QB, LB, DB. This team has both Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell available. They are most likely not going to draft an LT.
3. Texans: team needs: Everything. The Texans have Laremy Tunsil at LT signed through the 2023 season. However, Tytus Howard has been less than stellar at RT, and is considered a much better Guard. The Texans are very likely to draft one of the top Tackles in this draft at this spot and play them at RT.
4. Jets: team needs: WR, LB, CB. The Jets have 2020 1st round draft pick Mekhi Becton at LT and have former Seahawk, George Fant for another year. They are likely to focus on other positions of need. Likely CB or WR
5. Giants: team needs: OL, ED, LB. The Giants are desperate for help on the O-line. While 2020 1st round draft pick Andrew Thomas has been one of the top LT's in the league, they are currently slated to start Matt Gono, a Guard cut from the Falcons or UFA/PS player Korey Cunningham at RT. They will very likely use their 1st selection of the first round on a Tackle, knowing this is our targeted position.
6. Panthers: So, barring crazy trades, the Panthers will likely have 2 of the top 4 LT's available at this spot. How far down could we trade and still get a predicted starting caliber LT? First and foremost, we must be assured that the team we are trading with is not targeting an LT themselves.
7. Giants: After having drafted Tackle at 5, the Giants will target another position of need such as DE.
8. Falcons: team needs QB, G, C, DL, CB. Falcons have Jake Matthews at LT through 2023. They could target a tackle here, but also have other pressing needs. High probability they take one of the Georgia DLs here.
9. Seahawks: team needs QB, T, ED, CB. The Seahawks are very needy at the tackle position. Unless they have fallen in love with one of the QBs in this draft, they are VERY likely to select a tackle. They have last year's 6th round pick, Stone Forsythe projected as the start at LT. While Seattle isn't know for drafting OL high in the draft, a top 3 talent at LT may be too hard to pass up.
10. Jets: The Jets will fill their other need here, likely selecting a WR if they selected a CB with their first pick, or vise versa.
11. Commanders: Team needs: QB, G, C, LB. The Commanders just signed Charles Leno Jr to a 3 year extension and have last years 2nd round pick Sam Cosmi playing very well at RT. They will likely pick an interior lineman (Linderbaum) or LB (Lloyd)
12. Vikings: Team needs: G, C, ED, CB. The Vikings have last years 1st round pick Christian Darrisaw playing well at LT and Brian O'Neill is in the second year of a 5 year contract extension. They have no need for a tackle and likely draft edge or secondary help.
13. Texans: The Texans most likely selected a tackle with their first pick and will look to another position here. Will probably draft a WR or Secondary help.
14. Ravens: Team needs: DL, CB. This becomes the first gamble of the draft. With Ronnie Stanley (Top 5 LT in NFL) and bringing in Morgan Moses, who just signed a 3 year 15M contract, they may focus elsewhere. This will all depend on how Ronnie Stanley is recovering from a season ending ankle injury. Drafting an LT is possible, but reports from the Ravens indicate that his rehabilitation is going very well. I could easily see them drafting Devonte Wyatt at DT.
15. Eagles: Team needs: LB, DB. Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson are likely the best starting combo of offensive tackles in the NFL. They will likely focus elsewhere. Could be a landing spot for a skill position WR such as USC's London or Ohio State's Wilson if they are still available.
16. Saints: Team needs: QB, WR, T. This becomes the second gamble of the draft. The Saints have picks 16 and 19. One of these two selections will likely be an offensive tackle. If the Panthers trade back with the Chargers or Eagles into the 17th or 18 spot, this selection will likely be the 4th best OT available. If they plan to take a QB, the Chargers and Eagles would not be selecting a QB and they would feel safe taking an OT at this position.
In my opinion, we should trade down in the draft to secure more future picks and still fill our biggest need in the draft. If the Panthers plan on trading down they likely have 2 options. They can either trade down past the 16th pick and be prepared to move back up into the 17th or 18th spot giving the Saints a false sense of security that their tackle prospect will still be available. Or we must not trade down past the 16th position, as this will likely be the spot that the 4th best OT gets selected, especially if we trade into the 17th or 18th spot. Trading down with the Vikings (pick 12) or Texans (pick 13) is likely our best option if these teams feel the need to move up to select their player of choice.
Anything can and will happen in the draft on Thursday. There are a lot of LT thirsty teams not in proper position to draft a starting quality LT. Teams like the Bears, Broncos, Packers, Colts, Raiders, Chargers, and Titans could all very well be interested in moving up to select an OT. If you see one of these teams pop up on the ticker for a trade, especially a trade in front of Carolina, expect OT to be the selection.