The Carolina Panthers Draft Gets More Complicated

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About a month ago, I wrote a post (on another website) about how difficult it would be to re-sign DE Greg Hardy with the then-current figures.

Since that day, the salary cap has been substantially raised - to $133 million. RB Jonathan Stewart's contract has been restructured so he doesn't count $18 million against it, and stalwart LT Jordan Gross has retired.

My, how the times are changin'.

Pre-Combine, I was looking at Penn State WR Allen Robinson as the most likely target for David Gettleman at 26th overall. A poor 40 yard dash time (4.6) has dampened the excitement over him a bit, although he showed his good vertical leap. That 40-time (extremely overrated) still carries some weight, however. It can be a bit of a measuring stick and this time it shows Robinson might face some difficulty running after the catch against the NFL's much quicker, faster guys. I think he'll succeed, but it appears his ceiling just got lowered considerably.

Indeed, in my Mock 1.0 (pre-combine, with editor of, Josh Adler), I had Robinson falling to the Panthers. Now it looks as if he might fall out of the first round and into the first half of the second at best, but there's still time for analysis. Not to mention the fact that there are always at least two pretty big surprises each year in the first round (Bruce Irvin to Seattle, anyone?) 
Now with the retirement of Jordan Gross, the offensive tackle position in Charlotte looks very similar to that of the Baltimore Ravens or even the Miami Dolphins. The Ravens are likely letting OT Eugene Monroe walk in free agency, and the 'fins punk'd themselves out of at least two offensive linemen in Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

Thankfully, there are several top LT-types and quite a deep class of RT/developmental LT types in this class that will probably be around at 26th without "reaching" much.

We know David Gettleman loves his "Hog Mollies," and Jordan's retirement (and Byron Bell's continued struggles) means the team will have to spend draft picks just to stand still. 

With Gettleman's history in mind and the fact that this is also a very deep WR class means he could, and very well might, just draft that big, slobbering tackle to protect The Franchise, Cam Newton, before looking for any shiny new toys for him on the outside in round two and beyond.

These days, I'm looking for the team to re-sign 26 yr old DE Greg Hardy and another young player in safety Mike Mitchell. Mitchell was my pre-season pick for "pleasant surprise of the year" last summer and I have to say I
Greg Hardythink that one worked out just as planned. He's a young, physical player with incredible athletic talents and evolved into an "enforcer" on the back end of the defense last year - something the Panthers otherwise lacked.

So what are the Panthers' biggest NEEDS?

First and foremost, I think they have to replace Jordan Gross. Depth along the entire offensive line is thin as it is and you MUST protect Cam's blind side. Top priority. I like the kid outta Tennessee, Antonio Richardson, and his upside potential. However, if Virginia's Morgan Moses slips this far, he could be the guy. Richardson seems to be rising up the board, slowly but surely.

We'll see.

I think that second round is where we'll look for a WR, if one is around with a high enough grade to take near the end of the second round. Perhaps Richardson is still around here. If so, I can see Gettleman going LT, RT and putting Byron Bell on the bench as the first reserve, or have one of the rookies take over that starting gig as he learns the NFL.

"Bookend" offensive tackles are coveted by all teams, and of course free agency will change the recipe, but Gettleman is a "best available" draft picker. 
Watch out, Branden Albert. 

Cornerback is yet another "need" area for Carolina. Since they released Chris Gamble before the 2013 season, nobody has really stepped up and made a case to say "I AM the #1 corner." The problem is that after the top two corners, there's quite a drop-off in talent and both should be long gone by #28. 

The Panthers could draft more than one guy at each of those three positions - OT, WR, and CB...although likely only 1 corner will be drafted. They have depth, just not a star there.

So how might a Panthers' mock draft look like? This won't be accurate I'm sure - too many things to happen between now and May 8th - but if the draft were held today?

1 (28) Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

2 (60) Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida 

3 (92) Mike Davis, WR, Texas

4 (102) Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota St.

5 (156) Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno St.

6 (188) Kadeem Edwards, OG, Tennessee State

7 (203) Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane