INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 1, 2018 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers have a ton of issues to address in the upcoming NFL draft at the end of April. Now that we have examined what Marty Hurney’s promotion means for the Panthers, let’s look at the team’s draft needs by position.

Carolina Panthers draft needs by position

Wide receivers 

The biggest need for the Panthers right now is more targets for the quarterback. Up to this point, Cam Newton has taken games into his hands and made the impossible possible. The six-year quarterback is entering the prime of his career and needs to start thinking about how he can sustain his body for the next several years. Gone are the days where he will be able to carry the ball for his team as a sort of relief.

As mentioned in my last article, Tre’Quan Smith would be a great addition to Carolina’s receiving corps, that is if they want to go back to a strong, tall offense.

If Carolina wants to take advantage of free agency, one possibility could be Sammy Watkins currently of the Los Angeles Rams. Cameron DeSilva of the Rams’ RamsWire reported that Watkins is the top free-agent receiver which means his franchise tag would be more than $16 million. Carolina freed up $6 million in cap space by getting rid of Kurt Coleman and Charles Johnson. They obviously need more than that if they want to get Watkins and have added another name to the cut list by releasing Jonathan Stewart recently.

Running backs

Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey will likely get most of the touches during the 2018 season. He proved with his five reception and two rushing touchdowns that he is ready to be the go-to guy on the ground. Releasing Stewart gives the franchise the opportunity to get someone else that can match his speed.

There is a chance J Stew goes out into the market and doesn’t find any options which mean there’s a good chance Carolina signs him for less money and he stays with them until he retires. Carolina has been known to release players only to sign them for less (Johnson was released in 2016) which could be an option for Stewart given he doesn’t find a home.

SB Nation dubbed former Penn State running back, Saquon Barkley, as the probable number one overall pick in the draft so there’s no way Carolina gets them, but a team can dream, right?

Since the Panthers like players they can use for multiple positions, a back like Dion Lewis would be ideal. He scored nine touchdowns in 2017 and has also dabbled as a kick returner. Carolina is always adding someone to special teams to see how effective they can be with returns so this could ultimately be a great relationship.

Defensive Ends

Carolina has their eye on a number of defensive linemen like NC State’s B.J. Hill and hopes to find guys who will immediately be able to step in and add to the line. The Panthers’ defensive line has been impressive the last six seasons but are losing and have lost vital pieces which makes this an important pick as well.

The new players will also inherit a new defensive coordinator as Eric Washington was promoted to the position after Steve Wilks became head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Panthers.com staff writer, Max Henson, thinks Arden Key of LSU and Sam Hubbard of Ohio State are two edge rushers that should be available when the Panthers pick at 24. Both are potential good, young guys to add to the mix.

If Carolina wanted to go the free agent route, they could make a case for Michael Bennett who had 8.5 sacks for the Seattle Seahawks last season. Getting Bennett for a year would give them veteran experience that could teach up the young guys and give him the opportunity to contend with a team with the potential to make a playoff run.

Defensive Backs

There isn’t an immediate need to draft a defensive back although James Bradberry didn’t have such a successful second year. Carolina could use one of their late-round picks to get one of the decent backs that should still be available in the late rounds.

This is an area that Carolina certainly needs to address because their secondary has always been the defense’s weak point. And now that there are going to be some soft spots up front, they have to make sure they have some solidity throughout the whole defense.

Rumors have swirled throughout the Carolinas that there may be a Tre Boston sighting if they can work out a deal to acquire him from the Los Angeles Chargers. Boston gave up some big plays during his early years in Carolina but they still kept him because he was one of the better options several seasons ago. Boston would be a sufficient enough pickup if they don’t decide to draft in the position.

Other possible draft issues to address

  • Offensive line-

Ryan Kalil is retiring at the end of the 2018 season and Andrew Norwell is probably a Giant so Carolina needs to address the issue or suffer through beating up the defense again.

  • Quarterback-

No one is kicking Cam Newton out of Charlotte just yet, but perhaps it is time for the franchise to examine their quarterback situation. As of right now, Derek Anderson is the definitive number two but for how long? And as much as Panthers fans would like to believe Cam will be in Carolina forever, they know that isn’t the case. Better to see who they can get in the draft who they may be able to train up.

Last Word

There are plenty of needs the Panthers need to address in the draft. A lot of changes will be made to this roster. Will the changes be just what the team needs? Or is the first of a few rebuilding years for this franchise?

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