Panthers NFL Draft: Tight End Possible at No. 8

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has preaches a “best player available” strategy and it could have the team taking a tight end in round one…

The upcoming 2017 NFL Draft appears to be a once in a generation type of draft class for the tight end position meaning one could hear their name called when the Carolina Panthers are on the clock.

Greg Olsen remains on the roster but will be 32 years old entering his 11th NFL season. While Olsen remains under contract for the next two seasons as a potential free agent following 2018, Carolina may be looking to move on if not reduce his role in the offense.

The Panthers have also mentioned that they will be looking for more two tight end sets moving forward. That said, if a tight end is the Panthers highest rated player by their selection at pick eight, do not be shocked if they pull the trigger.

In this class, there are two tight ends worth taking at that slot. Let’s examine the tale of the tape.

O.J. Howard, Alabama

Howard is arguably the most hyped tight end prospect of the last decade. His frame, blocking, and receiving combination has drawn comparison to Olsen. What better player to eventually replace an aging Olsen, than a younger version of the three-time Pro Bowler?

Howard has the size and athleticism Cam Newton would love to see in the red zone. However, his best attribute is blocking. The Panthers tackle situation is currently suspect but with two strong blocking options on each side aiding in protection it would definitely help.

David Njoku, Miami

Njoku is a more raw player than Howard. However, as a former high-jumper and wide receiver in high school, he has the upside of a once in a generation talent. As a receiver, Njoku is everything the Panthers want Devin Funchess to be and more.

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As a blocker, he is willing and while he raw in that area learning behind fellow Hurricane Greg Olsen would be the best way to perfect his craft. With weapons like Jonathan Stewart, Devin Funchess, Kelvin Benjamin, Olsen, and Njoku, using quarterback Cam Newton as a runner would seem like a waste of the teams’ best assets. This would  benefit the health and longetivity of Newton greatly.

It is not every year where you find a perfect compliment to an offense, as well as a replacement for a tight end who is seemingly impossible to replace. Should the Panthers dig in and think about a tight end in the first round? If so, which one do you prefer?

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