Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
Panthers Team Need No. 1: Offensive Line
Pass-protection breakdowns were the root cause of Carolina’s massive 2016 step back on offense. The Panthers can’t count on RT Michael Oher’s health following a severe and ultimately year-ending concussion, while $55 million LT Matt Kalil was free agency’s riskiest investment based on his lengthy history of knee and hip injuries. C Ryan Kalil’s 2016 season was wrecked by recurring shoulder woes, and he turns 32 soon. Guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner both enter contract years.
Panthers No. 2 Team Need: Pass Catcher
32-year-old Greg Olsen has two years left on his deal. Ted Ginn (Saints) and Corey Brown (Bills) are gone after playing integral 2016 roles. As the Panthers make heavy use of two-tight end sets, they could use an addition there or at wideout. Kelvin Benjamin struggled coming back from his 2015 ACL injury, while talented but raw 22-year-old Devin Funchess is still learning the game. Under GM Dave Gettleman, the Panthers have prioritized wide catch radiuses in their pass-catcher corps to help compensate for Cam Newton’s erratic (often high) ball placement.
Panthers No. 3 Team Need: Defensive Line
Gettleman loves “hog mollies” up front, so re-signing, extending and adding defensive linemen is always a top priority. DT Kawann Short is sporting a one-year franchise tag, while DE Julius Peppers and DT Star Lotulelei are entering contract years. Situational pass rusher Mario Addison and lightly-used 2016 first-round DT Vernon Butler are the only hogs the Panthers have signed long term. Another talent will be added.
Other Considerations: Running Back, Linebacker, Cornerback
2017 NFL Draft: More coverage here
Norris’ Mock Draft
Round 1 (8): RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford - Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said the offense would evolve this offseason. It has not. In fact, it has gotten slower. The Panthers are at a crossroads in terms of progressing their offense. One direction is Leonard Fournette, the other direction is McCaffrey. The more you watch McCaffrey, the more you believe he can be a primary piece in the running and receiving game. He worked between the tackles at Stanford, as “pro style” as you can get, with patience, vision and explosive plays.
Round 2 (40): TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss - I mentioned the offense is at a crossroads in relation to running backs, but the team has shown significant interest in tight ends as well, dating back to last season. I would not be surprised by a trade up from this pick for David Njoku, but as this board fell the addition of Evan Engram makes sense. He can work with Greg Olsen in 12 personnel and move into a larger receiving role once Olsen moves on.
Round 2 (64): EDGE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova - The Panthers are interested in edge rushers who can work inside in certain situations. Tanoh is one, Demarcus Walker is another. I don’t think Tanoh plays to his size often enough, but when it all comes together he can make an impact.
Round 3 (98): T David Sharpe, Florida - 6-foot-6. 343 pounds. Dave Gettleman. Sharpe is a massive human but surpasses expectations in pass protection, yet doesn’t meet them as a run blocker.
Round 4 (115): WR Malachi Dupre, LSU - At the very least, the Panthers put Dupre through a private workout. Dupre arguably was hampered by poor quarterback play, but flashed when given the opportunity. He can be a downfield weapon.
Round 5 (152): CB Channing Stribling, Michigan - Stribling visited the Panthers, a team who seems to pick from that top-30 pool. He does not possess the 32-plus inch arms the Panthers focused on last year, however, the goal of this pick is to improve on Zack Sanchez. That should be easy.
Round 6 (192): LB Tanner Vallejo, Boise State - Another visit. The Panthers lost A.J. Klein in free agency, which bumps all linebackers up a notch. Vallejo has missed time, but he can be added to that group.
Round 7 (233): WR Fred Ross, Miss State - A slot receiver for a team lacking at the position. Another prospect visit.