Panthers pondering many position options with No. 25 overall pick
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, the Carolina Panthers are gearing up like the other 31 teams preparing for their selections.
And just like last season, many prognosticators and fans presume the Panthers will take an offensive lineman with their Round 1 pick (25th overall).
However, just like last spring, Panthers GM Dave Gettleman may throw another curveball and snag a player from another position. In 2014, it was Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who turned out to be a valuable component of the offense (73 catches, 1,008 yards, 9 TDs as a rookie).
In the past, Gettleman has been open about his admiration for defensive linemen — either tackles or ends. And he wouldn’t skip a beat of thought if another D-lineman to his liking was available at the right spot.
In 2013, Gettleman doubled down in the trenches, selecting D-tackles Star Lotulelei (Round 1) and Kawaan Short in the first two rounds.
Then came Kony Ealy in the second round last year — another surprise in Carolina’s 2014 draft.
Which brings us to 2015: With Greg Hardy moving on the Cowboys, will Gettleman and the Panthers feel the need to restock the shelf at defensive end — on Day 1 (Thursday, April 30) or Day 2?
Of course, the Panthers have other options at No. 25 overall. Outside of linebacker, quarterback, punters and kickers … every other position may be in play for Round 1.
Carolina, which had one of the worst offensive lines for the vast majority of last season, has made small steps to try and address that. It appears as though Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera believe they have enough depth — partly due to the signing of versatle O-tackle Michael Oher.
So, what about running back then?
When Carolina picks, Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon — the top prospects in a draft that’s loaded with potential difference-makers at tailback — might still be on the board. In lieu of the Panthers releasing DeAngelo Williams — the most prolific running back in franchise history — there’s a need to fill that spot.
At receiver, Carolina desperately needs speed at the position, even with the signing of Ted Ginn, Jr.
Ginn is more of a No. 4 wideout than an every-down pass-catcher. The 2015 class has superb depth — like last year — and Gettleman could probably land a highly rated wideout on Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3).
That leaves defensive back as the last major consideration.
The Panthers need one more cornerback, so they can move Bene’ Benwikeri to his more natural position (nickelback). But that position is not a pressing one and can be addressed in the later rounds.
In other words, it’s anyone’s guess to the Panthers’ draft plan, at this point. Thankfully, Carolina has a lot of flexibility with its decisions.
But similar to last year, just because offensive tackle remains a position of need … it doesn’t mean Gettleman will select one.
Follow FOX Sports Carolinas writer Brett Jensen on Twitter at @Brett_Jensen.