By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on April 11, 2014
The Carolina Panthers aren't your typical defending division champion. They were gutted during free agency and by retirements, and will enter the 2014 NFL Draft with some sizable voids. Here are five rumors surrounding the team that you need to know as the draft approaches.
The need for a true No. 1 receiver has been grabbing headlines after Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. signed with other clubs. But after inking Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant to begin the process or remolding the receiver corps, the Panthers can get by at the position in 2014. They can't, however, survive the current standing of the offensive line after Jordan Gross, Jeff Byers and Geoff Hangartner retired.
The Panthers desperately need help along the offensive line and at wide receiver, but don't underestimate the need for a new cornerback capable of filling the void left by Captain Munnerlyn, who was Pro Football Focus' 11th rated corner in 2013. Expect Carolina to select a defensive back during the third or fourth round, as tackle and receiver will likely be attended to with the top two picks.
As it stands, quarterback Cam Newton is on track for serious regression during his fourth year under center without a reconstructed offensive line. Even with his superb athletic ability, Newton likely wouldn't last the entire season with all the shots he's currently projected to take. Thus, the Panthers will undoubtedly double down along the offensive line during the draft. Perhaps, they won't just stop there, and could opt for a third lineman.
Yes, the need for an offensive lineman, particularly a tackle, may outweigh the need for a receiver, but the need for a receiver is still pressing. And a talent like USC's Marqise Lee might be too tempting to pass up. Lee has the potential to become a highly productive No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but might slip a little in the draft after an underwhelming, injury-plagued 2013 season with the Trojans.
If the Panthers do indeed peg tackle as their biggest void and too vital to put off, Virginia's Morgan Moses could be the pick at No. 28 overall. Moses, with a massive frame and long arms, may be one of the best pass protectors in the entire class and has surprising athletic ability for a man of his size. He could be the immediate starter Carolina desperately needs.
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