Five Players Carolina Panthers Should Target in Round 1 of NFL Draft

With the first round of the draft less than a week away, the Panthers big board should soon be complete. Let’s take a look at five players the Panthers can realistically target with the 30th overall pick.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah – Oklahoma St. 

With his powerful frame and ability to plow through the opposing offensive line, Ogbah has all the potential to be a quality starting defensive end in the NFL. Ogbah has incredibly long arms at 35 ½ inches long, which is bigger than JJ Watt’s arm length, which is about 34 inches. Ogbah definitely has the tools to compete at the NFL level.

Last season, the Panthers defensive ends struggled to apply pressure and sack the quarterback throughout the season. Panthers starting defensive end and one of the team’s captains, Charles Johnson, played 9 games in the 2015 regular season and posted only one sack, which came in the first week of the season.

As a group the defensive ends only totaled 16.5 sacks throughout the regular season, which well below what has become expected from the position. It is safe to say the Carolina Panthers are definitely in the market for a key pass rusher in this draft. 

OT Taylor Decker – Ohio St.

Decker stands at an astounding 6’7 and has great strength to match the height. He was a three-year starter and leader at Ohio St. and has definitely grown accustomed to having a winner’s mentality. The tackle would be a great fit into the Panthers locker room.

The Panthers, according to PFF, had the second best offensive line in the NFL last season. However, its weaknesses are highlighted at the tackle position. Michael Oher, who was decent in pass protection throughout the season, was graded as the worst tackle in the NFL when it came to run blocking. It’s safe to say that Oher isn’t the future at the left tackle position for the Carolina Panthers.

It would be beneficial for the Panthers to bring in young talent now to compete with Oher and right tackle Mike Remmers

RB Derrick Henry – Alabama

The 2015 Heisman trophy winner has become the fan favorite for the Panthers to draft for a variety of reasons. Henry is a massive running back and you won’t find many as big or bigger than him. To match his size Henry is a deceptively fast runner, posting a 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine.

Henry also had a combine best, 37-inch vertical jump and 130-inch broad jump which shows just how explosive the Heisman winner is.

Derrick Henry would make an already big Panthers backfield even bigger. With starting RB Jonathan Stewart, notorious for his strong, stout size carrying the load, the Panthers are definitely in need for a backup who can come in and help share the load. With the quadruplet backfield of Stewart, Henry, fullback Mike Tolbert, and QB Cam Newton, defenses are sure to tire quickly. 

 

CB Kendall Fuller – Virginia Tech

In the past few days cornerback has risen up the Panthers draft board drastically. With the Panthers rescinding the franchise tag on Josh Norman the need at cornerback has grown rapidly.

Fuller could be the answer to address the hole now left in the secondary. The Virginia Tech product has great ball skills and is a more than willing tackler. Standing at 5’11”, Fuller isn’t the tallest cornerback to take the field. He wouldn’t be an ideal size matchup against the likes of Atlanta’s Julio Jones, or Tampa’s Mike Evans. However, what he lacks in size he makes up for in his exceptional coverage skills.

Teams may be hesitant to draft Fuller in the first round since he is recovering from a torn meniscus and only played in 3 games this past season. However there is no knocking the corners talent.

WR Sterling Shepard – Oklahoma

Sterling Shepard is exactly what is missing from the Panthers receiving core. Standing only at 5’10”, Shepard is the slot receiver that the Panthers can place in between returning star WR Kelvin Benjamin and WR Devin Funchess, who is sure to have the number two receiver spot in his hands.

Shepard is extremely fluid and excels at route running. He has the ability to create space and has exceptionally soft hands. Shepard obviously lacks in size and wouldn’t get as many easy releases off of the line of scrimmage in the NFL as he did in college. However, on this Panthers team he would be the 4th receiving option behind Benjamin, Greg Olsen, and Funchess giving him many opportunities to get open.

Shepard would be an immediate upgrade over the inconsistent Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown and a good addition to Cam Newton’s arsenal of weapons.  

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