2014 NFL Draft: 5 Day 3 Prospects the Carolina Panthers Must Target

By Patrick Karraker

Prospects Panthers Look at on the Draft's Final Day

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The Carolina Panthers have a bit of a rebuilding project this season following the release of wide receiver Steve Smith and the retirement of offensive tackle Jordan Gross, two mainstays of the offense for the past decade-plus. Here are five players Carolina would be wise to target on Day 3 of the draft if they want to continue to field a playoff-quality team.

5. Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois

Erik Lora
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

5. Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois

Erik Lora
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

For some reason, Lora is not universally highly regarded and didn’t even receive a combine invite, which means he’s not a guarantee to get drafted. On this end, though, the slightly undersized Lora has very good potential as a slot receiver, combining polished catching skills with good breakaway speed. He’s very disciplined and knows how to play football the right way. He could be a poor man’s Steve Smith in Carolina’s offense rather quickly.

4. Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina

Lorenzo Taliaferro 2
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

4. Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina

Lorenzo Taliaferro 2
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Running back isn’t necessarily Carolina’s biggest need, but with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart aging, it can’t hurt to develop some extra depth at the position. The 6-foot, 229-pound back is a very powerful runner, and he is a solid receiver who also has experience lining up out of the slot. He could make an impact right away as a special teamer and possibly put himself in line to start when Williams and Stewart eventually leave.

3. TJ Jones, WR, Notre Dame

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3. TJ Jones, WR, Notre Dame

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If the Panthers are looking for someone to try to fill Steve Smith’s role in their offense, Jones would be another solid selection. The 6-foot, 188-pounder is a polished slot receiver who can be relied upon to catch the football. His name has been lost in the shuffle a bit amidst this great wide receiver class, but he should be a very reliable option in the NFL.

2. Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty

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2. Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty

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Though the Panthers have gotten good value out of corners like Melvin White and Josh Thomas, they could still stand to build some more depth at the position. Aikens, a small-school product who impressed at the Senior Bowl, would be a logical fit. He’s big and physical and is very capable in press coverage, though he still needs some work as a man-to-man defender.

1. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

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1. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

North Carolina v South Carolina
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Hurst isn’t guaranteed to be there on the start of Day 3; but if he happens to survive until the fourth round the Panthers absolutely should snatch him up, even if it means trading up in the round. Besides the local connection that the UNC product would provide, he’s the most talented tackle with a chance of lasting until Day 3, and he could be a very serviceable starter at either left or right tackle in short order.

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