When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the Carolina Panthers have the No. 24 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Wide receiver: This area hasn’t been brushed aside just because it has been addressed in some manner. The Panthers already are counting on young, yet unproven Curtis Samuel who was injured for a large chunk of his rookie season in 2017. It’s also unclear how Devin Funchess will function given that he could go into the season as the go-to receiver for the first time. There’s a need to restock this position in order to get it off the top-priority list.
- Safety: There’s an immediate need in this area, while the Panthers appear to be set to be a little more experienced at cornerback. That makes it more feasible to see if the draft can offer someone to step in right away at safety. This would have to be the right fit because the Panthers have been steady with veterans holding safety spots in the past.
- Running back: The Panthers let go 10-year veteran Jonathan Stewart, the franchise’s all-time rushing leader, so they need to see if they can find another long-term fix for this spot. There’s a lot of potential and confidence in Christian McCaffrey, who put together a nice rookie season in 2017. But there needs to be reinforcements and a bigger, durable back who can absorb some contact could be atop this list.
- Tight end: Greg Olsen isn’t going to be around forever, and when he went out with an injury for a couple of months last season, Ed Dickson was called upon to fill in. Now Dickson is gone. There might be no better time to consider a long-term plan to fill this spot. And it would be a great benefit for a young tight end to arrive with time to learn alongside Olsen while Olsen is still going strong.
- Offensive line: It looks like Taylor Moton could be ready to move into a starting role depending on how the blend of offensive linemen falls into place. Moton was a rookie last year and the Panthers like his versatility. Now, it might be wise to look in the draft for a player who has some of Moton’s traits and can be groomed into a starter up front. Injuries struck the offensive line at times last season and a better collection of backup plans would be ideal.
–BEST FIT: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama. The Panthers need a take-charge player in the secondary and Harrison could be the one to fill that. He should have the physical and mental maturity to jump in right away and make an impact, which is another requirement for the Panthers in filling a void at safety. He’ll have just turned 21 years old on draft day, but that concern could turn into a positive because he plays wiser than his years. His athletic ability isn’t something that’s questioned.
–Rob Rang: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The Panthers’ offense is expected to focus more on Christian McCaffrey in 2018 but that doesn’t mean the club should ignore its previous strategy of surrounding Cam Newton with big pass-catchers, especially if Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen’s threats of retirement are being taken seriously. Like Devin Funchess (a free agent next season), Sutton wins with his height and physicality, potentially giving Carolina twin towers on the outside to complement its speed inside.
–Dane Brugler: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. The Steve Smith comparisons are thrown around too liberally, but it is tough to watch Moore’s film and not get a Steve Smith vibe. He can create before and after the catch, creating explosive plays.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.