The Carolina Panthers have a problem with a lack of depth in their offensive line. The 2017 NFL Draftpresents some opportunity to fix that problem.
Looking at the 2016 Carolina Panthers creates an air of disappointment for fans and players alike. After the great performance that the group put together in 2015, expectations were high coming into this season. A rash of injuries to the offensive line has directly impacted the way this team has performed. It will be interesting to see what plans the team takes in addressing these concerns during the offseason.
On Tuesday the Panthers received more bad news as both Ryan Kalil and Gino Gradkowski were placed on injured reserve; ending their 2016 campaign. They join Michael Oher, whose season was ended after only three games due to a concussion, as other prominent members of the offensive line that has been so dominant in recent seasons. This has forced the team to dig deep into the depth chart to formulate a line, which hasn’t performed well all season.
To address these concerns the Panthers signed center Ryan Wendell and tackle Dan France. While these may be short-term solutions, the question comes up as to how they will handle this challenge in the future. This isn’t the first time that Carolina has dealt with multiple injuries to the offensive line; look back to 2014 as a recent example. When that occurred, Carolina immediately responded by rebuilding their front force. That same type of expeditious response is needed this time around.
Last season, the Panthers addressed their defense through the draft. As debate around the College Football Playoff grows, it’s due time to discuss how the Panthers will solve this problem through the selection of young players.
General manager Dave Gettleman has leaned on the draft before and that strategy should come into play to retool the offensive line and perhaps some parts of the offense as a whole.
With five games to play in the 2016 season, there’s still a chance that the Panthers will move out of the top 10 during the draft. “Tanking” isn’t an idea that anyone within the NFL would approve of. However, there’s value for Carolina to land a selection in the top 10.
What is interesting is that several early mock drafts do not show any of the teams with a top-10 pick selecting an offensive lineman. Though the lineman class is shallow in 2017, that bodes well for Carolina. Mock drafts are a version of science based in essentially educated guesses at this point in the process. But they do present a glimmer of hope that the Panthers may have an opportunity to address their offensive line needs with a top pick in the draft.
There are five games left in the 2016 season but it’s clear that this Panthers team has fallen below expectations. Injuries hit hard throughout the league and the way the Panthers have taken so many blows to their offensive line has limited their ability to play to their strengths. To fix this issue, Carolina will have to turn to the draft and potential solutions through free agency. 2016 has shown the team that they are too thin in a key area of their roster.