The Carolina Panthers can go a few different ways selecting the eighth-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Carolina Panthers are slated to make the eighth selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Many believe that an offensive player is the direction that the Panthers will go. LSU’s Leonard Fournette started as the main name, but others have come into the conversation as last minute options for the Panthers first pick of the draft.
The addition of an offensive threat would have an immediate impact to this Panthers group. But it also would give the team more options for the future. Both Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen are long-time veterans that are still producing at a high level.
While the Panthers are expecting that trend to continue into the upcoming season, that doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared to make a selection at either running back or tight end with the future in mind. Fournette is a pick to help solidify the future of the offense, but so is Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.
In Fournette, the Panthers would pick up an every-down back who could help alleviate the load Stewart has to carry. Cameron Artis-Payne hasn’t panned out like initially expected, and he hasn’t translated into consistent success on the field. Even though Carolina utilizes a running back by committee, there still needs to be a player available to replace Stewart, as he has a history of dealing with injuries.
In his final season at LSU, Fournette earned 843 yards and eight touchdowns. This comes after earning 1,953 yards in 2015 and 1,034 in 2014. Fournette could be the name that takes over for Stewart at some time in the near future — if he’s still on the board by the time No. 8 rolls around.
Then there’s the potential pick of Howard, who some have even compared to Olsen. Olsen’s experienced the best years of his professional career while playing with Cam Newton and it may be too soon to expect his downfall. Howard has the same dominant size, which has been a major part of Olsen’s production with the Panthers. It would be a benefit to both Howard and the team for him to be groomed as the backup for an extended period of time.
Christian McCaffery is another name that’s suddenly leaped up the ladder and has sparked some interest. He’s a multi-tool type of player that can help add new dynamics to the Carolina offense. Not only does he have great speed and playmaking ability, but he can help the Panthers special teams. The way that the Panthers like to mix up their play calling, McCaffery would be a player that could fit into this offense in a variety of ways.
Speculation about the NFL Draft could become a national pastime in its own right. Big boards are popping up all the time and the moment is almost here where college players will become millionaires overnight. The Panthers have some key decisions to make on how to impact both sides of the ball. However, no selection is more critical than their first at No. 8 overall.