The Panthers need an injection of talent and this is how they do it.
The Panthers look to lose Andrew Norwell and perhaps Star Lotulelei in the upcoming free agency period. Losing one of the best guards in the game and one of the best pieces of a shoddy offensive line will surely sting.
However, I believe second-year lineman Taylor Moton will be able to fill in quite admirably at left guard in Nowell's wake. The real questions are at center, defensive end, wide receiver, and depth in the secondary.
Though you can expect the Panthers to be active in Free Agency this year under a new regime; they will need to have a good draft if they want to make a deeper playoff run this year. Here are some early round targets that can inject some much-needed youth and talent into the Carolina Panthers.
Round One Pick #24: Billy Price, Center, Ohio State
The Panthers should have started preparing for life after Ryan Kalil a few seasons ago, but they now find themselves lucking into a future anchor of the offensive line. With Norwell possibly leaving, the Panthers will need more talented offensive linemen to protect Cam Newton. Ryan Kalil only managed a banged up eight games and backup Tyler Larsen isn't more than solid depth. Price, 2017 Remington Trophy Winner as the nation's top center and First-Team All-American, can fill in instantly as a spot starter at center and play some guard as well. At 6'4'' 312 lbs, Price is also a freakish athlete who is expected to crush the NFL combine. This may not be a sexy pick but its one the Panthers need to make.
Round Two Pick #55: Hayden Hurst, Tight End, South Carolina
he Panthers go offense in back to back picks and find an instant playmaker in Norv Turner's offense. Like Kalil, Greg Olsen missed a lot of games in 2017 and is also nearing the end of an amazing career. The Panthers have needed a young stud at tight end for a long time, and this is the year they should pull the trigger. Hurst is a big athletic target at 6'5'' 250 lbs and plays with a mean streak. The downside is that he will be a 25-year-old rookie, but this should allow him to see the field instantly. This year's wide receiver class is a weak one and drafting Hurst would be the Panther's best option for providing Cam Newton with a talented pass catcher.
Round Three Pick #85: Kyzir White, Safety, West Virginia
Kurt Coleman and Mike Adams formed a solid yet unspectacular duo at safety for the Panthers last season. Adams will be 37 by the season's start and is clearly not a longterm option. Enter Kyzir White, a player who can add a voice to a quiet Panthers secondary. The Panthers have lacked attitude behind the front seven since Josh Norman left for the Redskins. White has the size (6'2'' 216 lbs) and downhill tackling ability to be a physical force on the Panthers' backend. Though he doesn't have the lateral agility to earn his check playing man to man, he should benefit from the Panthers zone and blitz-heavy scheme. White would be the playmaker the Panthers need after seeing their secondary only pick off a mere seven passes last season.
Round Three Pick #88: Royce Freeman, Running Back, Oregon
Jonathan Stewart is almost 31-years-old and a potential cap casualty this offseason. The Panthers will need to draft his replacement and add a fresh set of legs alongside Christian McCaffery. Freeman, an Oregon alum, is the perfect man to replace fellow Duck, Jonathan Stewart. Freeman is an athletic 6'0'' 234 lbs with great vision in between the tackles. He ran for over 5,600 yards and scored 64 touchdowns in Eugene as an established bellcow. Though I expect McCaffery to take on a larger rushing share this season, Freeman could be the much-needed playmaker in tough yardage situations. Rivera and Norv Turner have alluded to continuing a run-heavy approach and they will need extra youth in the backfield to make it successful.
Written By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander