Panthers select OL in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft
ESPN Football Analyst Mel Kiper has the Carolina Panthers taking an offensive lineman with their first round pick…
The NFL Draft is a little over three months away and the Super Bowl has yet to be played but for 28 teams the offseason has already begun. Carolina Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney has control of the team through the draft and after a wild card loss to New Orleans, their preparations are already ongoing.
Coach Ron Rivera has been busy making coaching changes, recently firing offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterback coach Ken Dorsey. Norv Turner was selected as his replacement as the Panthers could be making changes in all three phases before next year. Turner is already in place and Rivera recently promoted special teams assistant Chase Blackburn to the coordinator role. On defense, coordinator Steve Wilks remains a coaching candidate for a handful of NFL teams but has yet to make anything official.
Carolina is in a unique position with a number of veterans filling critical roles throughout the roster. For a team making the playoffs four of the past five seasons and most recently winning 11 games, the Panthers are only a few changes away from bringing their first Lombardi Trophy back to Charlotte.
Eight Panthers in particular are nearing the end of their careers as management must find serviceable replacements for the future of the franchise. For this reason, Carolina could go a number of directions with their first round selection. Barring a trade, the Panthers will be on the clock with the overall No. 24 pick and anywhere from the offense or defensive line, linebacker, wide receiver or safety are viable options. With the recent appointment of Turner, even another running back remains a possibility.
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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Panthers selecting an offensive lineman with their first pick. The immediate heir apparent to replace captain and veteran center Ryan Kalil, Ohio State center Billy Price is the expected selection of the Panthers.
Price was a unanimous All-American last season and the Rimington Trophy award winner, given to the nation’s best center. At 6-foot-4, 312 pounds Price is taller and heavier than Kalil. With the current Panthers center entering the final year of his contract and battling injury issues the past two seasons, attaining an immediate replacement would be beneficial.
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The question remains if center is the most critical position to address in round one. Current backup Tyler Larsen has played well in Kalil’s absence but is an exclusive rights free agent. The Panthers may elect to re-sign him and look elsewhere when on the clock in April.