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5 Dark Horse First-Round Prospects Panthers Might Target

5 Dark Horse First-Round Prospects That The Panthers Might Target

Jace Amaro
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Although most have considered it a foregone conclusion that the Panthers will draft a wide receiver with their first-round pick, there is reason to believe that won't be the case. This draft is the deepest and most talented wide receiver class in at least the last 10 years, and they can find potential starters on day two or even day three. These are five prospects who might end up being a surprise first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers.

5. Calvin Pryor, Safety (Louisville)

Calvin Pryor NFL Draft
David Manning-USA Today Sports

5. Calvin Pryor, Safety (Louisville)

Calvin Pryor NFL Draft
David Manning-USA Today Sports

The Panthers lost one of their biggest play-makers on defense this offseason when safety Mike Mitchell signed with the Steelers. Pryor is a stronger version of Mitchell, and he posseses a similar skill set that makes him a perfect fit to replace him. He is rangy but best when used in the box and coming up to support the run or blitz the quarterback. He will make a ton of plays behind the Panthers' front seven.

4. Jimmie Ward, Safety (Northern Illinois)

Jimmie Ward Draft
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

4. Jimmie Ward, Safety (Northern Illinois)

Jimmie Ward Draft
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If Pryor is off the board when the Panthers pick, don't be surprised if they go with Jimmie Ward. Ward is a fast-rising prospect due to his ability to make plays in the box and also in the deep half of the field. Concerns about the level of competition he faced are warranted, but play-makers like this tend to translate to the next level.

3. Xavier Su'a-Filo, Guard (UCLA)

Xavier Su'a-Filo
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

3. Xavier Su'a-Filo, Guard (UCLA)

Xavier Su'a-Filo
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Mora called Su'a-Filo the best guard prospect that has entered the NFL Draft since all-pro and future Hall Of Fame guard, Steve Hutchinson. The Panthers' offensive line may be a bigger need at this point than receiver, with both starters on the left side headed for retirement. If last year's LG Travelle Wharton does in fact retire, and he's leaning there, the Panthers can fill a hole with Su'a-Filo. He also has experience at LT.

2. Jason Verrett, Cornerback (TCU)

Jason Verrett
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2. Jason Verrett, Cornerback (TCU)

Jason Verrett
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Some draft enthusiasts, including myself, believe that Verrett is the best pound-for-pound cornerback prospect in the draft. Because he is small, some will downgrade him and predict that he can only play in the slot. The Panthers have experience using a small and fiesty cornerback on the outside, as they have used Captain Munnerlyn in that role over the last two seasons. Munnerlyn walked in free agency, but Verrett can replace him right away.

1. Jace Amaro, Tight End (Texas Tech)

Jace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jace Amaro, Tight End (Texas Tech)

Jace Amaro
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers need an offensive weapon, but why does it have to be a wide receiver? Amaro, who racked up 1,352 yards on 106 catches last season, is one of the best red zone threats in this entire draft at any position. He has the size to develop into a plus blocker in the NFL, and he fits into what OC Mike Shula wants to do with their offensive scheme. Shula has said he wants to use more two tight end personnel packages. Olsen and Amaro? Yessir.

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