Rampant speculation is the name of the game at this time of the NFL calendar every year...that "dead time" when most of the free agents have been signed and the NFL Draft. Since teams have solidified their rosters as much as they're likely to before the draft in a month, there's not much else to look at.
Ideas of who the Panthers will take at #8 overall shift from day to day along with the projections. As of this writing, many Panthers fans are clamoring for TE O.J. Howard from 'Bama, who is the Pick du Jour, apparently.
I say he would not only not be a good choice for the Panthers, but he'd not even be of all that much help his rookie season. You need an impact player from the top-ten, and Howard is anything BUT that.
First, we have Greg Olsen. That's the obvious reason. Olsen is getting a little bit up in (football) years, but he has shown little sign of slowing down. In fact, last season made him the first TE in NFL history to have three consecutive thousand-yard seasons, putting him on the precipice of becoming a Hall of Fame TE five years after whenever he retires.
The idea is that Howard would back him up and then hopefully seamlessly take over the position once Olsen's skills decline. I say that's a reach of a reason to draft him or anyone else in a situation like that. He won't be an "impact player" his rookie season.
Secondly, the DE position is actually a "need" position for the Panthers. It's not for this season, but for next. Julius Peppers is here for a year, two years maximum. He's still effective, but will see limited snaps....about 20-25, I'm hearing, per game.
That's fine. Teams play nickel defense at least 40% of the time, and Peppers should see the vast majority of his snaps on passing downs. When he's not in the game, CJ (the original - or "Little Money" now) will fill in.
CJ is on the down-side of a very nice career, and I noticed from the beginning that Dave Gettleman plays Chess, not the Checkers that so many armchair GMs do.
Gettleman knows darned well that the NFC South has no weak QBs. Drew Brees is obviously headed for The Hall when he retires. Matty Melt had an MVP season last year and Jameis Winston is rising and with a little more help on offense, he should be a very dangerous opponent to face as well.
The axiom for ALL successful GMs is "Build your team to win the division FIRST." Since Carolina is in "win-now" mode, I don't see how O.J. Howard will be of all that much help unless Mike Shula decides to go to a base offense having 2 TE sets. Fans also note that Shula is not one who makes a lot of adjustments.
Am I the only one who sees the problem here?
I think if ALL the guys on our "Wish List" are gone, we should draft DE Derek Barnett from Tennessee. He could rotate-in, keeping Mario Addison fresh on the other side from CJ & Pep, then when next season rolls around, he could hit the ground running as a starter with a season of work under his belt.
He's also the "Anti-Ealy" in that he was consistent in college and, if memory serves, led the SEC in sacks with 13.
Okay, so I'm hearing that fans want us to take a TE in the top ten who wouldn't see many snaps per game on offense over a guy like Barnett, who provides some much-needed youth injected into our DE position.
Seriously, folks? REALLY?
Come on! As I said, DG plays chess, and he looks at the big picture, not just what we can do for "this year." He is also on-record for saying "you can never have too many pass rushers."
I don't recall anything similar regarding tight ends.
Lastly, some might say "Well, Howard would be the best player available!"
That much could be correct, but there will always be debate over it. IF that's true, he's not much "better" than Barnett grade-wise, and I've known for years GMs pay lip-service to drafting the "BPA." *I* say it's the "BPA" modified by team need.
This is why you see, every year, QBs going in the top-ten who don't belong there. You'll likely see the same this season since there is NOT a single QB worthy of a top-ten pick grade-wise. However, the draft is loaded with QB-needy teams at the top every single season. NOT having good QB play is often a large reason why teams are drafting IN the top-ten in any given year.
Bottom line? Barnett would provide a lot more immediate impact than would O.J. Howard, no matter how good Howard might be as a professional. There are also some GREAT TE prospects with second-round grades such as Evan Engram of Ole Miss and Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
With the kind of talent likely available at the TE position in round two, it would be foolish of the Carolina Panthers not to take Barnett (or another top pass rusher) with the eighth overall pick should Leonard Fournette be off the board.
-- Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye