Jun 1, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Carolina Panthers wide receiver David Gettis (12) catches a pass during organized training activites at the team

Carolina Panthers NFL Draft Watch 2013 – Team Needs

It’s sad that we’re barely more than halfway through the season and Panthers’ fans are already eyeing next season. It’s what happens when you’re 2-8 with few bright spots, have fired your GM, and likely will be looking for a new Dynamic Duo – General Manager and his personally-selected Head Coach – to start the journey out on the same wavelength.

Will the organization get their GM first, who will then select or help select their next Head Coach, or will ownership and the new GM want to give Ron Rivera a third year to finish what was started? With the look of the team these days, I’d be hard-pressed to say Rivera “deserves” a third season, but the man did have the team’s offense looking good in Cam’s rookie season, going 6-10 when they had the NFL’s worst record at 2-14 in 2010. The defense is improving but the offense has taken several baffling steps backward. Cam’s Auburn Tigers are under investigation by the NCAA as I write this, by the way.

This brings me to the issue at hand: Assuming the Panthers wind up around 4th in the 2013 NFL draft, whom will they pick if they cannot trade down?

First, a quick needs assessment is in order. On defense, I’d say the biggest needs are in the secondary; specifically safety and depth at CB. Rookie Josh Norman looks more and more like a bona-fide NFL starter. He’s certainly got a lot to learn but has shown an ability to make some plays, and corners’ hands are largely tied by rules that favor the receivers, so he and Chris Gamble should make a decent enough pair of starters.

FS Haruki Nakamura is the biggest liability in the secondary right now, so he’d be the top guy I’d look to replace there. I think we can safely take MLB off the “needs” list, and Carolina’s LB corps is one of the best and deepest in the NFL, Jon Beason’s future with the team notwithstanding. If we continue with the 4-3, we might look for an impact OLB especially if he can rush the passer. If we change to a 3-4, then a pass-rushing OLB need will be much higher on the list. Stay tuned there, because it will all depend on the coaching situation.

The Panthers could always use more depth at the DT spot, although it’s not as weak an area as it was last season.

Offensively, the picture is a bit cloudier.

QB? Nope. Cam’s the man, despite his so-called “Sophomore Slump” which I still say is caused by his line and the entire offense not being in gear – and much of that has to do with coaching. Read/option one week, ditch it the next, pass:run 2:1, then balanced the next week. The inability to effectively run-block on a sustained basis has caught my eye this season.

That, despite picking Amini Silatolu with a high second-round pick. While he hasn’t been a bust, he’s certainly played like a rookie for much of the season and still needs time and coaching in the NFL’s complicated pass-blocking schemes.

OTs Byron Bell and Jordan Gross haven’t improved since last season, but again, I think a lot of the issue is coaching which makes it hard to evaluate needs. I think we can safely rule out another RB, however, as a need.

Greg Olson is a wonderful TE but the cupboard is rather bare after him. I’d like to see a good blocking TE who can catch – the team has missed Jeremy Shockey a bit more than they thought in that regard. WR Brandon LaFell has been one of the brighter spots this season while David Gettis has struggled coming off injury.

Gettis has decent size and speed, but if he can’t stay on the field, what good is he? After a 500+ yard rookie season, he’s done nothing. For whatever reason, Arkansas rookie Joe Adams hasn’t played in the slot, and Steve Smith will be 34 years old next year, so I’d say a playmaking WR would really help in a number of ways, and is likely the biggest need on offense.

To further prioritize things overall, in order our needs are WR, FS, CB (Nickel CB and for depth), LB (OLB/ILB depending on personnel changes in the offseason – losing Beason perhaps?), TE2, DT, and depth on the o-line. Since Geoff Hangartner came into the league as a center, I’d look at the OG/OTs with Ryan Kalil being (hopefully) healthy again for opening day next season.

If the Panthers cannot trade down from the #4 spot they’d currently have (or possibly 3rd overall depending on tiebreakers with Cleveland), they’d likely wind up with the top WR prospect in the draft (if Cleveland doesn’t draft ahead of them). If Cleveland does draft ahead and takes a WR, things would become very complicated since few safeties get drafted in the top-5, Eric Berry aside.

We’ll take a look at the top prospects very, very soon….

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye

Tags: 2013 NFL Draft Needs Carolina Panthers

  • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

    Bell and Gross haven’t improved? Well, that is true for Gross since he’s always been one of the best LTs in the league. Bell has definitely improved since last season’s disastrous rookie year. and he looks like a viable RT going forward.

    • Catman

      Well neither looked like a pro-bowler against Dumervil and Miller in the Broncos game. Sure, they’re two pro-bowl pass-rushers, but shouldn’t a pro-bowl tackle largely neutralize a pro-bowl pass rusher? I haven’t seen that lately out of either tackle. Gross has allowed 5.5 sacks this season through only 10 games vs. 3.5 sacks allowed all of last season. Bell has cut down on false starts (5 last season vs. 1 this one) but he should’ve improved on something like that since his rookie year. He’s on a pace to greatly exceed his sacks allowed last year since he’s allowed 4 this year vs. only 4.75 in the entire 2011 season. Nobody is setting the world on fire in the running game, either. I don’t know who you’re watching, Joe, but it doesn’t appear to be the same OTs I’ve been watching.

      • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

        Ken, you are dead wrong on Gross. He has given up a seemingly awful seven sacks this year, but sacks are a misleading statistic. You have to look at overall pressure, and PFF’s numbers on Gross allowing pressure show that he has played very well this year and is their 10th-rated tackle. Bell sucked against Von Miller, but so did Vollmer of the Pats who has clearly been the best RT in the league. Bell struggled far more than Vollmer did, but he has been average as a rookie. It’s the interior of the line that has been terrible. Nobody on this line is truly playing well other than Gross. If you think Gross has been an issue, then it’s probably because the players around him have been so bad that it looks that way haha

        • Catman

          “nobody on the line playing better than Gross” – true enough. But that’s like saying “nobody is playing better on the Jets’ offense than Shonn Greene.” Let’s see…2 or 3 LTs get selected to the Pro Bowl….10th isn’t a Pro-Bowler then is it? My point is that the entire offense is playing worse than last season – Gross included. Gross isn’t the problem, however…I agree with you on the interior line. Check out my featured post on the draft and ponderings over taking Alabama’s guard with the ~ 4th overall pick in 2013. With the rookie wage scale and Todd McShay saying he’s the best guard prospect he’s seen in at least a decade, I see no reason to pass up a guy who should be a perrenial Pro-Bowler for the next dozen years, would give the running game an instant boost, and that alone would help dial down the pressure. Jordan Gross is the best house in a bad neighborhood right now and when an entire offense regresses under these circumstances, it’s a coaching issue. If Gross were the worst player on the line, we’d have one fine offensive line….but he’s not and we don’t lol

          • Catman

            Having said THAT, some DEPTH at OT would be a good thing. Just think how much worse it would be if Gross OR Bell got injured. We can pick up a decent second-string OT in free agency I’m sure, and a starting tackle isn’t high on the laundry list to draft – I say FS, WR, OG, a TE2 that can block and has hands good enough for short passes if not much speed, and depth at DT and LB are the biggest needs. Hard to say there before we know what Jon Beason’s fate will be.

          • Catman

            and also a nickel/3rd CB

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  • Tony Cardwell

    Good article Ken. Safety issues, and depth in O and D Line are my biggest wants. Still love Bell as an improving starter though, as well as Gettis and Adams, the coaches don’t agree with me though…

    • Catman

      With all the “apparent” talent at WR – Gettis, Adams, Murphy, Pilares, LaFell – only Brandon LaFell is contributing much and Steve Smith waited what…8 games before his first TD this year? I’d have thought they’d have found someone in the WR3/slot to step up but it hasn’t happened. With the o-line apparently regressing and the running game being average at 16th overall despite the $90 million backfield I’m seriously thinking it has to be coaching. You just don’t have that many things regressing from one year to the next without the coaches having at least some accountability for sure. Hmm send them your resume’ Tony…the Panthers may be hiring a new HC as well as GM…

  • Sevydamus

    Some of the sacks that are counted against them is because Cam holds on to the ball so long.You haven’t been watching the games if you haven’t noticed that.To say we need to draft a WR in the first round is retarded & should probably stop smoking whatever it is your smoking.DT & OL are the biggest need I wouldn’t be against Jockel from A&M we could put him at left, Gross at right ,& Bell to guard.If we did that we could also look to releasing Gross.We have one of the best DE rotation in the league.Hardy is having a great season,Johnson does very well to go along with Alexander & keiser both will continue to improve.
    There’s just no push in the middle which is why u see Hardy playing DT sometimes. Nakumara is straight garbage & shows backing up a HALL of Famer means squat.Should look to sign Byrd at FS.Glenn Dorsey for DT along with drafting one in the 1st or 2nd round.Try & get Melton DT from chicago which would be probably to expensive.
    We need to look at bringing Quetin Jammer in & resign Captain.Release Beason,Gamble,Ron Edwards,Williams & maybe Gross.Williams I love & I really blame it on the scheme of the dumb read option crap.Gross is getting old so if we can get him to take a pay cut or move to RT.Trade Beason for a 2nd or 3rd since we don’t have a 3rd & pick up a CB,DT,OL.
    If Cam can actually be a decent QB & stop making so many mistakes along with a good draft & FA that fit a need.We could be really good especially if we get DT help are front 7 will be sick if Davis stays healthy

  • james

    reason cam holds the ball too long is due to LACK OF WR’s talent. thank you