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2015 NFL Draft Primer: Carolina Panthers

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Team needs: Offensive line, Wide Receiver, Running Back, Cornerback Safety,

Panthers’ selections

Round 1- 25th overall

Round 2- 57th overall

Round 3- 89th overall

Round 4- 124th overall

Round 5- 161st overall

Round 5- 169th overall

Round 5-174th overall

Round 6 – 201st overall

Round 7- 242nd overall

 

Good fits early:

Ereck Flowers: A year ago the Carolina Panthers let veteran wide receiver Steve Smith go because they claimed they wanted to commit to the running game. A slew of injuries at the running back position and an ineffective offensive line made that very difficult, and the Panthers offense struggled. Young Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers makes perfect sense for a team like Carolina if he’s still on the board when they select at 25th overall.  A big, strong road grater like Flowers would fit right into their run scheme. Flowers seems to be moving up draft boards quickly because of his rare combination of youth, size and power, but if he’s still on the board at 25, it may not take long for Carolina to turn their card in.

 

Cameron Erving: Florida State’s Cameron Erving might be the most versatile offensive lineman early in the draft. Erving can play anywhere on the offensive line, and has solidified himself as a late first or early second round pick because of that versatility. While Carolina has Ryan Kalil at center, which many believe to be Erving’s best position, Erving’s ability to play either guard or tackle position still make him a possibility for the Panthers at 25. The Panthers would probably prefer to draft a tackle with their first round pick, but if there’s a run on the position as there often is, don’t be surprised if they start looking at interior lineman like Cameron Erving before reaching for another position.

Breshad Perriman: It’s possible that Breshad Perriman running a 4.25 at his pro day will shoot him up draft boards and he’ll be long gone by the time Carolina selects 25th overall, but if he’s there, it might be tough for the Panthers to look away. Carolina’s need to sure up the offensive line may only be trumped by the need to get some playmakers for Cam Newton, and Perriman is exactly what this team is missing. The Panthers hit big on last year’s first round pick Kelvin Benjamin, but they need a burner on the outside who can make his job easier by taking the top off of a defense. Perriman would give the Panthers the speed they lack at the receiver position and another big receiver on the outside as he measures in at 6-foot-3. That rare combination of size and speed will make Perriman someone’s first round pick, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Carolina is that team.

Don’t be surprised if the focus of Carolina’s draft is on the offensive side of the ball. While the Panthers could use some help in the secondary, and a pass rusher, it would be no surprise to see as many as four or five picks on offense. Carolina needs help on the offensive line, at wide receiver and at running back.

The Panthers need help at guard and tackle, and each position is deep, so it’s quite possible the team could select one of each. The wide receiver position needs a serious infusion of talent and speed, and while a player like Perriman could be available at 25, the draft may be as deep at the position as it was a year ago. With as many good receivers as there are in this draft, the Panthers may focus up front before looking for Benjamin’s counterpart.

It’s time for the Panthers to draft a back to complement and even push Jonathan Stewart before the 2015 season. DeAngelo Williams is now a Pittsburgh Steeler, and Stewart hasn’t played 16 games since 2011. It’s imperative the Panthers find a young back who can shoulder the load if, and likely when, Stewart finds himself on the shelf.

 

Potential late-round targets:

 

Jeremy Langford: While the Panthers need to draft a guy who can split carries with Stewart, they don’t have to do it early. Langford had 40 touchdowns and ran for nearly 3,000 yards his last two years at Michigan State, and carried the ball for 6-yards per carry in 2014. Langford did a nice job replacing Le’Veon Bell at Michigan State, and if the Panthers wait until the later rounds to draft a tailback, he could be a guy that could replace Williams.

Chris Conley: If Carolina waits until the middle rounds to select a receiver, they could look to Georgia’s Chris Conley who could be called a poor man’s Breshad Perriman. Conley who’s just an inch shorter than Perriman and ran a tenth of a second slower at 4.35, could possibly be a target for Carolina in rounds three or four if they don’t address the position earlier. Whether it’s one of these two or someone else, it’s almost a certainty Carolina will address the position in the draft, and with their big strong possession receiver in house, you’d have to expect speed to be a priority with this year’s pick.

Ladarius Gunter: Miami’s Ladarius Gunter didn’t do himself any favors by running a 4.69 at the NFL combine, but that won’t stop someone from giving him a late-round look in the NFL draft. With bigger holes to fill, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Carolina wait until the later rounds of the draft to address the cornerback position, and a big strong corner like the 6-foot-1 Gunter would make sense in a division with some monsters lining up on the outside. Gunter is the kind of young man that NFL clubs want to give a shot, as he worked himself from junior college onto the Miami Hurricanes roster in college.

For the Panthers draft to be considered a success, they’ll need to land a starting offensive lineman, a playmaking wide receiver and a tailback to help take the load off of Stewart. The good news for Carolina is the draft is very deep where their greatest needs lie, so they should be able to accomplish just that. The Panthers can’t expect Newton to succeed if they have a revolving door at running back, underwhelming talent at receiver and across the offensive line. If the Panthers can address their offense and get Newton some help, perhaps they could win the division with a winning record in 2015.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.