Which positional groups could the Carolina Panthers double-dip at during a hugely important 2021 NFL Draft for the franchise?
Draft needs where the Carolina Panthers are concerned became a little bit clearer over the last month. The team’s free-agent signings and departures already have the roster looking different from the one that finished the 2020 season with a 5-11 record for the second straight year. But whether this is going to come with the necessary improvements remains to be seen.
There is a lot to like about some of the moves made by the Panthers in a difficult climate that stems from a reduced salary cap following COVID-19 revenue losses throughout the previous campaign. Scott Fitterer has been thrown in at the deep end and done a nice job overall in his first offseason as general manager, but his big test will be whether or not he can bring his draft success from the Seattle Seahawks to Carolina.
What comes next will be crucial for the Carolina Panthers.
If Fitterer can couple his knowledge of incoming recruits with head coach Matt Rhule’s extensive knowledge of the college system, it should serve the Panthers well. There is the obvious cloud hanging over Teddy Bridgewater after the arrival of Sam Darnold. But now this problem has been solved to a certain extent, it’s time to look at strengthening other areas.
What comes next is going to be crucial for Carolina in their pursuit of becoming a postseason challenger at the earliest possible opportunity. The foundation has been put in place, but if they cannot build on this next time around, it will all be for nothing.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at four needs the Panthers might address more than once during a pivotal draft weekend.
Need No. 1
Even though the Carolina Panthers managed to bring John Miller back on the cheap and acquire free agents Pat Elflein and Cam Erving, it is essential they make the most out of the deep offensive line class entering the NFL this year. Getting one or two recruits on the interior is worth considering with the bigger picture in mind, with current options being more of a band-aid fix than a long-term solution at this stage.
There are plenty of prospects coming out of the college ranks with starting potential across most rounds. Finding someone who can become a franchise left tackle will be most important from a protection standpoint. But if the Panthers can also boost this by selecting the right blocking forces at guard or center, it is only going to help their plans for progression.
It’s one to watch closely, but judging by their current options much more is needed if they want to be considered legitimate contenders in an NFC South division that now boasts the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.