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Carolina has a franchise quarterback and a ferocious defense, so a deft move or two could pay off handsomely. The Panthers have done well with their top selection in recent drafts, but this time Carolina’s first pick is at 28th overall, rather than in the top-15. Fortunately, the Panthers’ biggest need aligns with one of the deepest positions in the draft.
1. Wide Receiver
It’s no secret that the Panthers need a playmaker at wide receiver. Steve Smith is still productive, but he’s on the downside of his career and is no longer a No. 1 option. Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are adequate as complementary pieces, but Cam Newton could really use a big, physical target that can create matchup problems and catch balls in traffic. Tight end Greg Olsen actually led the Panthers in receptions in 2013.
The Panthers are stacked in the front seven with the likes of Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Luke Kuechly, Star Lotulelei, and Thomas Davis— no team had more sacks than the Panthers in 2013. However, the back end of the defense could use an upgrade. Though Carolina could go with a safety as well, corner appears to be the more pressing need. Rookie Melvin White out of Louisiana-Lafayette started at the end of the season on one side, and Captain Munnerlyn is only an average cover man on the other. A shutdown corner could make the Carolina defense even more ferocious, if that’s possible.
3. Offensive Tackle
Jordan Gross has been a staple at left tackle for years, but will be 34 years of age by the time the 2014 season begins. With Byron Bell having an inconsistent season on the other side, Carolina should target a tackle to build for the future and protect franchise quarterback Cam Newton for years to come.