NFL Carolina Panthers

2014 NFL Draft: 5 Late-Round Sleepers Carolina Panthers Should Target

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5 Late-Round Draft Sleepers the Carolina Panthers Should Target

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After an incredible regular season, the Carolina Panthers suffered a bitter postseason defeat at home at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Panthers’ general manager Dave Gettleman has chosen to focus on the positives, and he has already begun the process of gearing up to make a championship run in 2014. After beginning the offseason with major salary cap issues, the Panthers restructured the contracts of Thomas Davis, Jonathan Stewart, and Ryan Kalil. These restructures have created about $7.25 million in salary cap space for the 2014 season, but their impact on the Panthers’ 2015 salary cap situation is going to be costly—that’s a topic for another article.

Back to the now, the extra cap space has allowed the Panthers to retain standout defensive end Greg Hardy, and they are still left with some extra cap room. With the extra cap space to work with, the Panthers will be able to orchestrate a plan in free agency that doesn’t leave them handcuffed for the 2014 NFL Draft. With less needs to fill, the Panthers can use the Draft to retool their talent at several positions and also take fliers on some late-round prospects.

The Panthers will most likely still be forced to make some very difficult decisions in free agency and eventually let impact players from 2013 move on to other teams. For example, if they let Brandon LaFell and Tedd Ginn sign elsewhere, they can use the later rounds of the draft to find their replacements in the passing game and on special teams.

Without further ado, here’s a look at five late-round draft prospects who the Panthers should target.

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5. Storm Johnson, UCF (Running Back)

Storm Johnson
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It should be only one more year stuck with Deangelo Williams and now a couple more with Jonathan Stewart due to his recent contract restructure. While the new management looks to make the contracts of the past, a thing of the past, they can start by finding a running back of the future. There are very few running back prospects in this draft that offer more upside in the late-rounds than Storm Johnson.

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4. Dri Archer, Kent State (Running Back)

Dri Archer
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If the Panthers lose Tedd Ginn to free agency, and it seems likely that they will, their special teams will take a major hit. In 2013, the special teams produced several plays that changed the shape of that particular game and the season as a whole. If the Panthers draft Dri Archer, the man who ran the fastest forty-yard-dash at the NFL Combine(4.26), their return game won’t skip a beat.

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3. Seantrel Henderson, Miami (Tackle)

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers need to start looking for new players to groom at offensive tackle now that Jordan Gross has retired. Reports claim that they are likely to bring back right tackle Byron Bell, and they may even move him to left tackle. While the late-rounds very rarely produce starting tackles right away, Seantrel Henderson presents a great size and speed combination prospect who the Panthers can look to groom. He has the physical ability to step right in as a swing tackle.

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2. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech (Cornerback)

Antone Exum
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Antone Exum presents a size and speed combination that you rarely find available in the late-rounds of the draft at the cornerback position. Exum ran twin times of 4.50 and 4.51 before earning an official 4.59 forty-yard dash. Even 4.59 is plenty fast for a cornerback who goes 6-foot and 213 pounds. The Panthers may lose safety Mike Mitchell and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to free agency—Exum is one option to replace them.

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1. Kevin Norwood, Alabama (Wide Receiver)

Kevin Norwood
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Kevin Norwood is projected to go as late as the end of round-six according to some draft experts. Norwood presents the late-round best value of any prospect at any position, and he is a great fit for the Panthers because they need to find a second and third wide receiver. Norwood goes 6-foot-2, 198 pounds and ran a 4.48 forty-yard-dash. His college production improved each year. For my full scouting report, click here.