It seems that it is almost certain that the Carolina Panthers will be going offensive tackle with their first pick in the draft. The fact that Byron Bell is a free agent and not many options on the free agent market to replace him, leaves a glaring hole at left tackle. The positive for the Panthers are there are a number of offensive tackle prospects that should be available at number 25 that are capable of starting Day 1.
LSU tackle La’el Collins has been drawing interest for a while now from the Panthers based on this article by Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review back in January. However, I don’t believe he will be available and the pick will come down to Flowers and T.J. Clemmings. The tackle from Miami gets the nod based on the fact that he has more experience playing the left tackle position than Clemmings who was primarily a right tackle in college.
This pick is based on the assumption that the Panthers want to get younger at the running back position. Jonathan Stewart earned the starting running back position heading into 2015 based on the way he finished last year while DeAngelo Williams was injured. The question will come down to whether or not the Panthers are comfortable with Williams as the primary back-up or want to bring in a young running back.
If the team does decide to part ways with Williams, drafting Tevin Coleman at this point in the draft would be a great value. Coleman played on a lackluster Hoosiers’ offense meaning that the opposing defenses usually put all their energy in stopping him. He went on to run for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.
Coleman would be an excellent third down back for the Panthers offense because he has great hands out of the backfield and commits in pass protection.
The Panthers have major needs at wide receiver opposite Kelvin Benjamin. The rookie wide receiver was the team’s primary pass catcher on the outside but as the season went on he got worn down and defenses keyed in on stopping him more.
If the team is able to bring in a player to play wide receiver on the outside in free agency, they could still use a quick wide receiver to work out of the slot. Jamison Crowder out of Duke would make a lot of sense because he can fill this role as well as serve as the team’s primary returner. A player like Crowder would be able to fill two pressing needs for the Panthers that will have to be addressed this offseason.
The Panthers got their starting left tackle in the first round but come back in the fourth to add depth to the offensive line. Shepherd has started the past two years for the Alabama Crimson Tide at the right tackle position.
With Flowers on the left side and Mike Remmers at right tackle, Shepherd should have the ability to be a swing tackle backing up both positions. According to Dane Brugler, Shepherd’s best position in the NFL though may be inside at guard “as his athletic and strength limitations make him best in smaller areas.” This is one player that with a little coaching could probably play any of the four positions on the offensive line outside of center.
After four straight picks on the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers decide to pick up a defensive player. The defense has a great outside linebacker in Thomas Davis and undrafted rookie Adarius Glanton showed promise down the stretch for the team but there isn’t much depth behind these two.
Hicks spent five-years at the University of Texas and had 28 starts over this span. He had injury issues in 2012 when he missed 10 games due to a hip injury and in 2013 only played in four games before injuring his Achilles. The hope is that the injury problems is in the past for Hicks who started all 13 games for the Longhorns at weakside linebacker. This would be a good pick for the Panthers to have a player like Hicks back-up and learn how to play the position from Davis.
Last year, the Panthers struck gold in the fifth round with the pick of cornerback Bene Benwikere. They hope they have the same luck in the sixth with Georgia’s cornerback Damian Swann. The 6’0”, 180 pound cornerback could be a solid fit at nickelback for the Panthers if they decide to keep Benwikere on the outside permanently in 2015.
If Swann is not able to stick as a cornerback for the Panthers, at the very least he would be a welcomed addition to the special team’s unit. Brugler wrote, “Experienced on special teams coverages, including time as a punt returner (averaged 4.6 yards per return at Georgia). Plays with a menacing motor and high-tempo effort after kickoff.”
If the Panthers don’t bring back Greg Hardy, they could be in the market for another pass rusher. They drafted Kony Ealy in the second round and after a slow start finished the year strong with three sacks in the final three regular season games. This is certainly not a pressing need but bringing in a player like Riddick would make sense. He has tremendous potential but needs a team to be patient while he learns the position and develops a bit.
Riddick transferred to West Virginia before his senior year from Gardner-Webb but didn’t have the same impact he did at the FCS level. At 6’6” and 242 pounds he has the frame to be a defensive end but will need to add some mass, according to NFL.com Lance Zierlein’s scouting report. The athletic ability and potential is there and could turn out to be a steal in a few years.