Why the Panthers will Draft an Offensive Tackle in Round One

People that have been paying attention to David Gettleman and his ways have noticed one thing about him so far. He isn't shy about pulling in lower-end free agents.

There is quite a list of names there, including Ted Ginn, Jr., Drayton Florence, Quentin Mikell, Mike Mitchell and many others last year while pretty much anyone at WR with an NFL catch on the roster right now was signed just this this year.

Fans can "fan"tasize about the shiny newest model-of-the-week WR toy for Cam but after having signed what appears to be a "normal" haul of low-enders, Mr. Gettleman so far has neglected one area of great interest...and that is one of offensive tackle.

I'm not blaming him because the reasons are simple: There is a premium placed on pass rushers and even more of a premium on those who can stop most of them.

Have you noticed how, in recent years, the RB position has been devalued? The trend should continue in 2014's draft but instead of making a mistake in the top-five with a Trent Richardson (and a top-5 RB pick is an anomaly these days let alone to whiff on it), I would be very surprised to see any RBs taken in the first round at all.

The top-3 left tackles will be long gone by #28 overall. Even questionably-positioned tackle Zack Martin of the Fighting Irish should be gone. 

Gettleman looks to me as a man who doesn't like to take risks, but drafting so low means it's much harder to get that solid starter. Don't let anyone fool you. The Panthers need help at offensive tackle and in multiple bad ways. If you hear people clamoring for WRs early and often, ask them: "Who is going to block for Cam?"

Usually, you get back a response that sounds more defensive, dismissive and/or like an excuse than anything else. Sometimes, you even get back the stupid "Bah, stars go first....there will be plenty of blockers to pick up later!"

Look at how Ryan Tannehill "developed" in 2013. He didn't because of a sorry O-line. It's that simple.

The truth is that it's the other way around. Forget DeSean Jackson; there have been other receivers available....Eric Decker for one. Others remain unsigned while a number of others signed on as #2 or #3 guys.

Look at the "unsexy" position of offensive tackle. There simply weren't any names out there to get.

Branden Albert wasn't going to get away from the Miami Dolphins this second time around especially after what happened this past year and their horrid offensive line, and Baltimore kept the only other starting free agent in-house and signed their guy. Gettleman had nobody to sign even if he'd HAD money.

Shouldn't that tell you something?

Unlike starting WRs, starting tackles don't grow on trees, good ones are quite rare, and teams keep those that they can. Meanwhile, the situation in Miami was an ugly display of what happens when you just put warm bodies on the edge and not good personnel with talents to match the demands of the job.

It helped Tannehill develop in ONE way - learning how to get hit by mean NFL defenders and how to take a sack. mmm-KAY!

Neither Rivera nor Gettleman are as dumb as to even be in a position to attempt that and especially not at the critical stage of their developing young franchise QB. Once again, look at Tannehill in Miami. Given the choice of having nobody to block or nobody to catch, Rivera and Gettleman both seem to build from the inside-out.

Protect then project.

Tackles still play inside of wide receivers. Emphasis on the word wide, hello.

Gettleman signed warm-body WRs because the need was there and the prices were right. Is it a stop-gap? Of course it is, and they both know it. Yes, they both do see the need for a WR in this draft - but the class is very deep and the need is greater at tackle.

You can't tell me the need for an offensive tackle isn't more dire than it is at WR when there's legitimate talk of not only keeping Byron Bell, but moving "The Turnstile" to the blind side screams at me "HELP WANTED!"

Can the already "other Clowney" and Underwood etc. pull off the same production as Ginn, Hixon, Smitty and LaFell last year? Numbers-wise, probably so as it stands because that bar is pretty low. It's a harsh business, but if a player like Smitty isn't producing as he did and is becoming noise to the team, perhaps it is time to move on. He still has something left but he's the team's past, not its future.

I see the Panthers wanting 2 defensive backs, 2 WRs, 2 OTs and a DT for the interior rotation and depth. That would be ideal....with the OT being gone first, then again either second or third.

I think it might be Morgan Moses out of Virginia or possibly Joel Bitonio of Nevada. Whoever they go with, they'll undoubtedly swear whoever he is was "the highest-rated guy on our board" and the same cliches you always hear. The cold, hard fact is that the retirement of Jordan Gross means the talk is not about whom to replace Byron Bell with....but moving Bell to the blind side?

Are you freakin' kidding me? The Turnstile?

No - if that happens, I will be extremely skeptical of Carolina's ability to move the ball other than runs up the middle or screens or short dump-offs. Edge-rushers get drafted high too, and in no way would I want to see Byron Bell trying to block even an average blind-side pass rusher. He's bad enough on the strong side as it is.

Cam wouldn't want it either, but won't admit it. Bell needed replacing last year, and now we're forced to replace Gross. I think two OTs are going and I've said it two months ago and I'll say it again - but drafting 2 OTs and 2 WRs within the top 5 rounds isn't out of the question because that's where the needs are and much of the talent lies.

As with any draft, some guys that will turn out good in the NFL will fall beyond the first round due to injury or "intangibles" or off-field troubles. Antonio Richardson of Tennessee is a case in point. He has first-round talent but bad knees. Every LT-type outside the top half of the first round is going to have the "Yeah, BUT -" attached to him when being discussed for drafting, and in the first round you really can't miss.

I guess we'll see what direction Gettleman goes. There will likely be several WRs at 28 worthy of taking for some reason due to sheer numbers. One will fall and it could even be a Marqise Lee. What then?

Star Lotulelei fell to us at 14 last season, but he also happened to be the position of greatest need for us at the time. I don't think we'll get so lucky so far down in the draft and at the offensive tackle position. No Greg Robinson from Auburn - sorry. Them bones will have been picked clean by then and a choice for Moses may be a little bit of a reach, in fact. He carries a mid-second-round grade, so while it wouldn't be a huge reach, don't let them give you the "we got the best available guy" bit. Uh-uh. 

Honestly, at some point, you go shopping for groceries because you need certain items, not because you want certain things. Eggs. Milk. Bread. And a left tackle that can at least slow down his grandmother's pass rush. We currently are slap out.

The Carolina Panthers currently have guys that can catch...as underwhelming a group as they might seem...and they need guys that can block. The draft is where you get them. The fact it's a deep draft for both WR and OT still means OTs will be gone before the Panthers can act, but it also means there are going to be several talents on the board in the middle rounds - that's the current thought, anyway.

Trading up would be the only way to snag perhaps a Taylor Lewan - if he slides far enough for whatever reason - but it would be at the cost of Carolina's top two picks PLUS their 4th or 5th PLUS another pick or two in 2015. I don't see Gettleman doing that.

In fact, I could more likely see him trading back into the early second round, if there are any takers, while still picking up one of those two tackles I mentioned. The biggest hurdle there would be finding a team who really wants to nab someone that I can't see. It could be someone wanting a borderline first-round QB, depending on the breaks, like a Derek Carr - again, if he's still there. Any Kevin Costner Draft Day-style trades likely won't occur until draft day itself and even then talk won't even pick up until the early-mid 20's in the draft order. Otherwise, the Panthers stay put at 28.

Let's see if Moses and/or Bitonio from Nevada aren't drafted by Gettleman. See if he doesn't double-dip and draft 2 OTs in the first 3 rounds....possibly even 1-2, just as he did last year with Lotulelei and Short at DT.

The precedent is there.

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