5 Potential First-Round Scenarios for the Carolina Panthers in 2014
5 Potential First-Round Scenarios for the Carolina Panthers in 2014 NFL Draft
The Carolina Panthers are one of the NFL's best young teams. The Panthers finished 12-4 in 2013 which clinched the team a first-round bye in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Carolina, its playoff dreams ended early after the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Panthers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera won the 2013 Coach of the Year Award, and Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly won the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Award. The 2013 season was a huge step towards Carolina becoming an elite team in the NFL.
The Panthers still lack some talent that is needed to become a Super Bowl contender. Carolina's defense was superb last season, ranking second in total defense, which was right behind the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. But the Panthers' offensive production was lackluster: The club ranked 26th in total offense and 29th in passing offense in 2013.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a great quarterback who is capable of accomplishing great things, but the Panthers need to give him more weapons. Steve Smith, who is the Panthers' No. 1 wide receiver, will turn 35 years of age this May; Smith will not be playing pro football for much longer. Furthermore, Carolina lacks a true No. 2 wide receiver. The Panthers organization has to be looking at grabbing an offensive playmaker in the first-round of 2014 NFL draft.
It's also very likely that Carolina could also be in the market to draft a defensive back in the first-round this May. 5 of the Panthers' defensive backs will be free agents this March which means the team is likely going to lose some of those players.
5. Select a Cornerback
I think the Panthers should definitely go for a wide receiver in the first-round as of now, but that may change after free agency. Some of the team's cornerbacks may not be back in 2014 which would cause the Panthers to reload depth at the position. With the No. 28 overall selection, the Panthers could take any of these cornerbacks: Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett or Marcus Roberson.
4. Trade Up
The Panthers need a playmaking wideout. The Atlanta Falcons traded up for Julio Jones in 2011. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are the two best wide receivers in the upcoming 2014 draft class, and it's highly unlikely either one of them will make it to pick No. 20.
To get Watkins, the Panthers would have to trade up to as high as pick No. 5 which would require Carolina to give away a lot. Getting Evans wouldn't be as big of a pain as the Panthers would have to trade up somewhere in between picks 10-15.
There will still be some great wideout prospects available by the Panthers' selection at No. 28, so this option comes down to whether or not the organization believes one of those players can give them a more immediate impact.
3. Take WR Kelvin Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State is marveled for his size—6-foot-5 and 235-pounds. His catching radius is insanely big. He is tough to bring down, but he isn't an experienced route-runner. And he doesn't have great hands. He has great potential, but he is going need a lot of coaching up.
2. Pick WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a wideout from LSU who stands at 5-foot-11 and weighs 193-pounds. He is only average sized, but he has a large catching radius. He is also a very elusive player which makes him a good return man.
1. Choose WR Allen Robinson
Penn State wideout Allen Robinson is a physical player. He has a height of 6-foot-3 and weighs 210-pounds. He is very good in traffic and jump-ball situations. At Penn State last season, he amassed over 1,400 receiving yards. He isn't a polished product, as he does need to work on route-running, but he is likely to make an impact right away.