Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad offensive lineman Lane Johnson of Oklahoma (69) prior to kickoff of a game against the Senior Bowl north squad at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers Pre-Draft Needs - Part 2 of 4

2 – Offensive Tackle: This is a much, much trickier position to fill for Carolina due to both the premium on the positional value of LTs and to a lesser extent on RTs these days and the fact that the 3 top-tier LTs should all be gone by #14. I don’t see the third-ranked tackle, LT Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, making it past #12 Miami Dolphins’ pick and even that is being generous. “Consensus” is that TAMU LT Luke Joeckel goes with the top pick and Philadelphia grabs Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher at 4. The Arizona Cardinals, who are NOT repeat NOT protecting Cam Newton this year (oh…I got you guys good on that one hehe) can also use a tackle, as could the Buffalo Bills. The fish definitely can, having let Jake Long sign with the Rams.

If the Panthers somehow have a choice between a Lane Johnson and ANY DT, Johnson should be the pick. Byron Bell is a liability these days at the RT spot, and that’s Jordan Gross’ better fit as well. Kudos to Gross being a team player and anchoring that LT spot the past 2 seasons, and doing it rather well overall, but upgrading to a more natural LT via the draft, sliding Gross back to the right, and letting Bell be the top backup would instantly improve protection in the passing game and probably give the running game a boost as well. There’s an outside chance that Alabama RT D.J. Fluker could be taken to start at RT, leaving Gross on the left side.

Sep 8, 2012; Winston Salem, NC, USA North Carolina Tar Heels guard Jonathan Cooper (64) plays in the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB

3 – Offensive Guard: Amini Silatolu struggled in learning the complex NFL blocking schemes, coming out of small Midwestern State and as a left tackle. The kid is a MAULER of a run-blocker, but made a lot of drive-killing mental mistakes (read: penalties) on a number of series his rookie season and still needs help in developing as a pass-blocker. RG Geoff Hangartner is a decent and versatile player who took the center job when All-Pro Ryan Kalil went down with injury, but the Panthers are woefully thin beyond the two starting guards – assuming Kalil is healthy. Hangartner’s biggest value to the team is in his ability to be the top guy off the bench to plug into any of the 3 interior line positions when the need arises, and the inconsistency in the running game would greatly be helped if one of the two top-tier guards are available. Alabama guard Chance Warmack is rated the top player in the entire draft by many; still others have him the second-ranked guard in the draft behind UNC’s Jonathan Cooper. Cooper’s the more athletic of the two, but Warmack has the ability to move his man wherever he wants him to go. Either player would be a tremendous help and a welcome addition and upgrade on the line, and Warmack in particular would instantly improve the running game. Also, any player coming from a Nick Saban team is going to be as NFL-ready as anyone, so the risk in taking Warmack, if available, would be minimal.

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