The 2013 NFL combine officially kicks off this Saturday, February 23rd. Carolina Panthers fans everywhere are wondering who their team will draft. The die hard fans have probably scoured over as many mock drafts as possible and circled numerous players they hope the Panthers will nab.
Do the Panthers go defensive tackle with the first pick? It sure seems possible. Head coach Ron Rivera is certainly a defensive minded guy. The Panthers also are in need of a solid tackle on the defensive line. Seven-year veteran Dwan Edwards had a breakout season with 27 tackles and 6 sacks, so another player to pair with him would instantly help the Panther’s line. At defensive end, the combination of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy produced 23.5 sacks. After Edwards on the inside, there wasn’t anyone around to help. Look for the Panthers to take a hard look at combine tackles Sheldon Richardson and Johnathan Hankins.
Recent news has the Panthers cutting trim off their roster to save $10 million and get under the salary cap. That cut has to be cornerback Chris Gamble. By making that move, the Panthers will be one defensive back lighter but just about $8 million in salary will be saved; getting the team closer to that $121 million cap. I see a cornerback in their draft future as well, or possibly a cheaper alternative to Gamble through Free Agency.
And finally, another glaring need will be at receiver. Sure, Steve Smith is still performing, but he is no spring chicken. Brandon Lafell has shown flashes as a solid number two receiver, but he has trouble finding the end zone. The team’s number two targeted receiver was actually tight end, Greg Olsen last season. If Baylor’s Terrance Williams is there for the taking, the Panthers could take a serious look in his direction. Not only did Williams not have the multi-talented Robert Griffin III throwing the ball his way, but Kendall Wright wasn’t on the opposite side either at WR. The result? Williams had a record breaking season, was named an All-American and led all college receivers with 1,832 yards.
If it were my team, I’d put all my eggs in coach Ron Rivera’s defensive basket. I’d go out and get that defensive tackle. I’d look hard at a 2nd round receiver but pass if the right guy is gone and go linebacker again to really cement that position and give teammates Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis another reason to get even better. Then, I’d go secondary with a strong 4th round cornerback or safety. I’d go hard all day on defense and give Rivera every tool he needs to take this defense over the top. Let Rivera and his offensive staff handle what they know, but give the coach whatever he wants on defense.
The offense sure isn’t going anywhere. Quarterback, Cam Newton is a freak! He’s doing things on the field at record breaking pace. The Panthers look to be one receiver short, but otherwise the team is in decent shape on offense. Cam Newton really is that good. He needs another weapon but sticking to defense could take the Panthers to a winning record. I think they’re right there. I really do. I see them as at least a wild card team next season.