Carolina Panthers: Offense or defense? First pick still in question

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the first half against the New Orleans Saints during a NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the first half against the New Orleans Saints during a NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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Do the Carolina Panthers go with offense or defense when initially on the clock?

The NFL Draft is just days away and most media outlets, analysts and fans are still split on what position the Carolina Panthers should target when initially on the clock. Currently, the team owns pick No. 16 in the first-round and despite being among the second half of the league to select, should still be able to land a quality playmaker.

General manager Marty Hurney has been methodically piecing together a roster dismantled by an age and retirement. Multiple veterans were not re-signed, including captain linebacker Thomas Davis, in addition to the retirements of defensive end Julius Peppers and center Ryan Kalil.

Carolina made moves to fill a majority of the vacated positions and consensus has been while help is needed at safety, quarterback and running back – the initial focus will be between an offensive or defensive line player.

Finding a quality athlete who can come in and immediately contribute is an especially daunting task, but Hurney has a solid first-round history and will be prepared. In fact, he’s made a trade in every NFL Draft where he’s been responsible for the Panthers pick, except one, and if the target is offense – he may be forced to move up in the initial round.

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The Panthers have options to move through a trade and with prospects on both sides of the football. Targeting an offensive lineman, specifically a left tackle or defensive end is believed to be the goal. However, there are far fewer high quality tackles available than defensive ends this year. Carolina could make a move, land an immediate starter on offense in round one and then opt to address the pass rush as the draft unfolds.

Not necessarily a bad strategy considering there will be more quality pass rushers available on day two than tackles. However, the emergence of Taylor Moton last season, coupled with a re-signing of Daryl Williams could force Hurney’s hand on the pass rush – especially as he attempts to replace a future Hall of Fame member this season.

Like every season the decision will shape people’s perception of the draft and Panthers front office, despite results typically not being available for a complete class until a few years down the line. Unfortunately, Carolina doesn’t know how much time they have remaining with quarterback Cam Newton – or how healthy he can be moving forward – and they must continue building their roster with that in mind. Regardless of what the future holds at quarterback, protecting them should be a priority and with less high quality options at left tackle available – Hurney could pull the trigger on a trade up and offensive lineman in the first round.

dark. Next. 2019 Marquee Matchups

Tune in to find out when the NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 25 – Saturday, April 27 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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