The Carolina Panthers finally made it to the playoffs in 2013, as Ron Rivera and Cam Newton came together to win the NFC South. Their success was thanks to both men, but probably most of the credit has to go to a young, feisty defense that seemingly turned into one of the league’s most dominant units over night.
Carolina’s defense should be even better in 2014, but whether or not they win the division again or advance further in post-season play may come down to what they do on offense. After all, the team let wide receiver Steve Smith go, while offensive tackle Jordan Gross retired.
Those are two huge holes Carolina has to fill, and that’s just the beginning. With the 2014 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, let’s hammer out Carolina’s top needs, while finding some quality solutions they might consider selecting throughout the draft:
Offensive needs: WR, OT
Carolina’s offensive line has some bright spots in Amini Silatolu and Ryan Kalil, but they have a definite hole at tackle with the retirement of Jordan Gross. Lucky for Carolina, there should be some very talented tackles available with their 28th pick. Morgan Moses or JuWaun James would look great in white and silver. Even if they choose to wait, the Panthers could find a starting tackle in the second round, as well.
Steve Smith has been the face of the Panthers for quite some time, and without him in the fold, Newton’s targets look pretty bland. It’d be fun to see what Newton can do with Allen Robinson or Kelvin Benjamin.
Defensive needs: CB, S, LB
Carolina’s front line is impeccable. While San Fran and Detroit’s lines were getting headlines, Carolina built a premier front 7. The weakest link is A.J. Klein, but he should be able to carry his own weight enough to remain in the rotation.
The secondary could definitely use some work. The might be able to get by, but if something happens to the pass rush, their flaws will be exposed. Replacements could be found for Antoine Cason, Josh Thomas, Charles Godfrey, and Roman Harper. That said, the defense will still be stellar with each of these guys, so the immediate focus should be on the offense.
The Panthers have several holes to fill, but if they can get creative with this draft, they’ll be looking at another playoff birth in 2014.