It’s almost that time of year, where the owners, coaches, general managers, and the rest of the front office, lock themselves in a room and heavily debate which players to draft to improve the team. This room is called the “War Room” for a reason. Everyone in this room is heavily opinionated and has become attached to a prospect that they don’t believe the team can do without.
In this segment, we will put ourselves in the war room and tell you the picks we believe teams need to make when they’re on the clock. We’ll cover all 32 teams but today’s segment is dedicated to the: Carolina Panthers.
The worse thing that could happen to the Panthers, was Andrew Luck going back to college. He is a true franchise quarterback. Now, everyone is trying to make one of the other quarterback prospects, fit the mold of the #1 overall pick. It’s okay though, the Panthers don’t have to reach for a quarterback with the first overall pick. The good thing (I guess) about being the worst team in the league, is that you obviously have many positions to upgrade.
Carolina can afford to take the best player available. The top talented players in this draft are a receiver, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, and cornerback. Carolina needs all of that. Even though a franchise quarterback trumps all other positions, there isn’t anything guaranteeing that the top prospects are franchise quarterbacks. It’s not as clear cut as best available vs. need. It’s an equation of both. The Panthers have to take the player that fits the biggest need and has the most talent at #1.
The Panthers have a new coach in Ron Rivera. They have always had a good running game with Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Williams is a free agent and it isn’t guaranteed that he’ll be back next year. The Panthers had a top 10 pass defense but had a horrible rushing defense. Another key free agent, was their sack leader Charles Johnson. They have to resign him and add some defensive tackles next to him, to slow down the opponents rushing attack.
Actually, the Panthers could use to defensive tackles in this draft as that position is their biggest weakness. Even though their cornerback play was decent last year, they could afford to draft another potential starter that could shift over to the nickel as worst.
They drafted two young receivers last season that are developing but need a true #1 guy that can replace the aging Steve Smith. The big question is who will throw the receivers the ball. They have two second year guys under contract. They have to sign a veteran and should draft a rookie in the later rounds to develop. They can’t go into the season with Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike, and a rookie.
Protecting the quarterback will be a key to their season as well. They will need to improve at Guard and also have a security blanket due to injuries there. They may also look to add depth at the outside linebacker position and both safety spots. After signing Jeremy Shockey, they could still use a rookie to develop underneath Shockey. Like Jimmy Graham did in New Orleans.
Carolina Panthers Mock Draft
Round 1 Pick #1: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn - The equation of the Panthers biggest need + most talented players at that position + decline at that position in the later round = Nick Fairley. The Panthers need to fill both defensive tackle positions. They don’t draft again until the 3rd round. The decline on defensive tackles by then, far outweighs the decline on cornerbacks and receivers. Fairley is a playmaker. Don’t get caught up in the hype. He’s the best defensive tackle in this draft. Watch the tape, not the combine / pro day hype.
Round 3 Pick #65: Davon House, CB, New Mexico State - If House played at a SEC school, he would be mentioned as a fringe 1st round pick. He plays the run equally as well as the pass. Speed guy that can make up for mistakes in coverage. He’s not afraid of contact and can be seen flashing through the trenches with the big uglies trying to get to the ball carrier. He’ll start in the nickel as a rookie and could eventually start for the Panthers as their #2 corner.
Round 3 Pick #97: Will Rackley, OG, Lehigh - Another small school guy here. He played offensive tackle in college but will make the switch smoothly to offensive guard in the pros. Rackley will compete for the start and should win it, if there is a lengthy enough preseason.
Round 4 Pick #98: Terrance Tolliver, WR, LSU - They need a #1 caliber receiver. Tolliver is that guy. He showed his toughest and drive at his pro day, when he got injured and chose to continue and fight through it. Carolina could use Tolliver with David Gettis, Brandon Lafell, and hopefully Steve Smith would be willing to coach up the younger players.
Round 5 Pick #132: Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame - Ron Rivera would have to love the thought of placing the big space eating Williams next to Nick Fairley, with Charles Johnson on the outside. Ian and Nick would complement each other perfectly.
Round 6 Pick #166: D’Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona - If Rivera could coach up Reed to play consistent the whole game, then he would have found his starter opposite of Charles Johnson and have completed what could be a dream defensive line or nightmare if you’re facing them. It would also be quite a talented, young, rotation with Everette Brown, Eric Norwood, and Greg Hardy all at the position as well.
Round 6 Pick #203: TJ Yates, QB, UNC - WIth Butch Davis right down the road in North Carolina and the way he looks out for his athletes, you have to believe he’ll put the bug in the ear of Rivera for the late rounds. Carolina would be smart to pass on all of the early draft prospects and go the vet route. Then draft a player like Yates in the 6th or 7th round. Yates had flashes of brilliance in college and went through a lot of changes. Let him develop behind a vet for 2-3 years and he could become a weapon.
Round 7 Pick #244: Adrian Moten, OLB, Maryland - It’s not a great class for outside linebackers, so teams will let these players slide and it will allow a team like the Panthers to get a mid-round talent like Moten in the end of the draft.
That’s how it played out in our Mock of the Carolina Panthers “War Room”