Draft a Running Back Early in the Draft
Head Coach Ron Rivera may have let the Panthers draft strategy slip a little bit at the NFL Annual Meeting. He was asked about the running back position and Jonathan Stewart. “I think it's been proven that you've got to have a good two-back tandem. That's what we're looking for – for that complement to Jonathan” said Rivera according to Panthers.com Bryan Strickland.
So far this offseason the only moves made at the position was re-signing Fozzy Whittaker and agreeing to terms with free agent Jordan Todman. While both are good moves, neither player is really that complement the Panthers need.
This leaves the NFL Draft as the most likely avenue for the team to bring in a player of that caliber to create that good two-back tandem. Luckily for the Panthers the draft is deep at running back this year but the team seems to have their eye one of the top backs this year, Georgia’s Todd Gurley. The day after Gurley’s Pro Day, he was in Charlotte for a visit with the Panthers.
If the team misses out on Gurley in the first round, they should find some excellent quality in the second round with players like Miami’s Duke Johnson, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, or Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. It would not be a surprise to see the Panthers have their running back of the future before the Saturday of draft weekend.
Unfortunately for Nebraska’s Randy Gregory his draft stock could have taken a hit with news of his failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine. However, the chances the Panthers could select the talented pass rusher in the first round has gone up significantly.
On March 25th, NFL’s Kimberly Jones reported that Gregory had tested positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combine. Then on March 30th, ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted that the Panthers were working out Gregory.
This seemed like a surprise for a player who was widely considered a Top 10 selection before the drug test. The Panthers clearly think there may be a chance he slides down in the first round, barring a possible trade up in the first round.
On the field, the Panthers would be getting one of the best pass rushers in this draft. He would almost immediately jump to the top of the depth chart. He played defensive end at the University of Nebraska but the 6-5, 240 pound pass rusher has the physical tools to be moved around and occasionally even line up at outside linebacker.
The concern with Gregory was never on the field but it was the stuff that happened off it. The Panthers just cut ties this offseason with another defensive end, Greg Hardy, who had off the field troubles and they may be hesitant to make this move.
However, the team did support defensive end Frank Alexander last year, who failed two drug tests and was suspended for 10 games. The failed drug tests may end up not being a huge issue for the team as long as they are confident this is in the past for Gregory.
Drafting an Offensive Tackle in Round One
The Carolina Panthers have been very aggressive this offseason addressing needs on the offensive side of the ball, particularly at tackle. The free agency market at offensive tackle was very weak this year however the team was able to at the very least add depth to the position with players who could compete for a starting job.
Before free agency even started the Panthers were able to agree to terms with Michael Oher, the former first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Oher has struggled a bit recently and is coming off a tough season with the Tennessee Titans. He is still young and has plenty of starting experience at both left and right tackle.
The team also claimed Jonathan Martin off waivers after the San Francisco 49ers released him following the NFL Annual Meetings. Once again he another tackle who has struggled recently but also has starting experience at both left and right tackle. This type of versatility with players who could start at either position will help the Panthers in the upcoming season.
These two newest additions allows the Panthers to potentially hold off to Day 2 or even Day 3 before adding an offensive tackle. While Oher or Martin are not necessarily the long term answer at either position it doesn’t make addressing offensive tackle a pressing need early in the NFL Draft.