The Carolina Panthers have a number of needs that they will have to address next month at the NFL Draft and running back is one of them. The interest from the organization in former Bulldog Todd Gurley makes sense, especially with the team releasing long-time Panther DeAngelo Williams this offseason.
The question is would it be the right pick for the Panthers’ in the first round?
There is no questioning Gurley’s talent as he had put together an impressive collegiate career at the University of Georgia. In three seasons he ran for 3,285 yards and 36 rushing touchdowns with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. This is certainly not an easy task playing in the SEC and against some of the top defenses in the country.
There are two major reasons that the team should wait to draft their running back: Value and Need. The running back position has seen a tremendous drop in value recently to the point that no running back was drafted in the first round the past two years. The fact that the position has lost as much importance as it has is the only reason a player of Gurley’s talent would even be in discussion for the Panthers’ at 25.
The other reason the Panthers should wait to draft a running back and potentially miss out on Gurley is that the team has more pressing needs. Even though the team signed veteran offensive tackle Michael Oher, the left tackle is one position that needs to be addressed and early. There are a number of prospects this year who are capable of starting almost immediately, especially on the Panthers who had an offensive line that was shaky at times last year.
The Panthers already have a featured running back in Jonathan Stewart and drafting Gurley could potentially hurt the position. At the end of the last season when Stewart was getting 20+ touches a game, he was near the top of the league in rushing yards. If the team drafts a player like Gurley, there would seem to be some pressure to make sure the first round pick is involved in the game. This would most likely take touches away from Stewart and force the position back to being split between two players.
The drafting of Gurley would also seem to be contradictory of what the Panthers are trying to do on offense. In an interview with WBTV when DeAngelo Williams announced he would be released he was told by GM Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Ron Rivera the reason for his release was “'because we don't run the ball enough. Just like you said back before the season started, we don't run the ball enough to keep you and both [Jonathan Stewart], so we're going to release you'."
If the Panthers are truly moving away from being a running offense and focusing more on a balanced offense, then a running back wouldn’t be the answer. While drafting a player like Gurley would be the exciting pick, it doesn’t make sense for the Panthers’ to use with their first round pick.