The Carolina Panthers had one heck of a season. Carolina made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and it was their first division title since then as well. Cam Newton was consistently better at not turning over the ball as much in years past, and the defense put mediocrity aside for a season; leading the league in sacks and tied for 5th in the league in interceptions. A less turnover prone offense and a more opportunistic defense usually leads to substantially greater results. The Panthers did a great job at bringing back their defensive sack leader and budding star, Greg Hardy; but lacked in just about every other area in free agency. Carolina lost both of their starting wide receivers, one of them being long time fan favorite and all time team leading receiver, Steve Smith. To make matters even worse, the Panthers lost three of their top five tacklers on the team, and arguably their scrappiest corner on the team with Captain Munnerlyn. New additions’ Jerrico Cotchery and Jason Avant, hardly solve the wide receiver position in Carolina; and veterans Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud add experience for sure but neither bring a dynamic aspect to the safety position.
Corner is worth a look here with the 28th pick in the draft, with a franchise quarterback needing weapons though; the Panthers have to get Cam Newton a number one target for the future. No one better to be that guy other then LSU’s own, Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham was a complete stud for the Tigers in college. The 6ft wide receiver reminds experts of a Victor Cruz type talent, a receiver who can line up outside and in the slot, while create mismatches all over the field. It does come as somewhat of a surprise that Beckham has dropped this far into the draft, any other year he’s a top three talent coming off the board; this just shows the depth at the wide receiver position in this draft. If the Panthers don’t know much about Beckham, they should read into him now; his elusive quickness, strong hands, and gamer mentality has many teams intrigued about this young man’s future.
In the second round there are two corners that really intrigue the NFL Draft Daily, if Carolina so happens to address this position of need. Ron Rivera’s defense had quite the the diverse look in it, using a healthy blend of man defense along with zone blitzing schemes; providing tremendous pressure on quarterbacks around the league. Corners like Phillip Gaines from Rice, and Marcus Roberson of Florida; could both fit this need with their size and their ability to excel in either defensive scheme. Despite their lack of production in college, both players possess the ability to become better overall players in their professional career. Ron Rivera needs opportunistic corners in his scheme, and each can be molded into that corner.
It’s quite surprising that a division champion has allowed so many key contributors leave the team, now the fan base must show faith in their general manager of filling these holes. A go to wide receiver is a key necessity for a young and growing quarterback; and adequate coverage in the defensive secondary is needed for a league that has become pass happy. There is a high demand for both positions when you examine each team around the league, so Carolina must move quickly to resolve their holes. Back to back division titles is not out of the question, and an extraordinary draft would send the division champion Panthers in the right direction.
This article is one in a series, published daily, providing analysis, insight and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman