Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is Rotoworld's Senior NFL Editor, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) is Rotoworld's lead Draft Analyst. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in April’s draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
RE: Mario Addison
LE: Bruce Irvin
NT: Dontari Poe
3T: Kawann Short
MLB: Luke Kuechly
WLB: Shaq Thompson
SLB: Jermaine Carter
LCB: James Bradberry
RCB: Donte Jackson
SCB: Corn Elder
FS: Rashaan Gaulden
SS: Eric Reid
Edge Rusher: Already a weakness after Ron Rivera’s disappointing Panthers Defense finished bottom six in sacks (35) and bottom two in quarterback hits (72), this need was exacerbated by Julius Peppers’ retirement, even if it was expected. Only RE Addison (45) was credited with more QB pressures than Peppers (28) by PFF last season. Carolina needs multiple reinforcements on the edge. Irvin, who turns 32 early in the season, is purely a veteran depth investment.
Offensive Line: Question marks exist at both tackle spots with Moton moving to left tackle full time and Williams coming off a lost season (knee). Left guard is wide open, and Paradis has struggled with injuries of late. Last year’s Panthers line played well early but faded down the stretch.
Secondary: Carolina’s most-obvious secondary hole is at safety, where Reid was re-signed but 38-year-old FS Mike Adams wasn’t retained after the Panthers allowed the NFL’s seventh-most yards per pass attempt (7.7). 2018 third-round pick Gaulden was mostly a non-factor as a rookie. Top CB Bradberry deserves an extension entering the last year of his deal. No. 2 quarterback behind Newton (shoulder surgery) and No. 2 running back are less-immediate but still-existing needs.
Panthers 2019 Draft Picks
1 (16). T Andre Dillard, Washington State - We will have more answers about the Panthers' likely starting offensive line after the draft. One option, the Panthers could draft an interior offensive lineman, have Moton play on the left side and have Daryl Williams back on the right. That is … worrisome, as the Panthers don’t have a tackle on their roster that has spent extended time on the left, and Moton has already shined at right tackle. Instead, Dillard would be a perfect selection due to his wealth of pass pro reps at left tackle, allowing Moton to stay on the right side, forcing a camp competition between Daryl Williams and Van Roten at guard.
2 (47). EDGE Christian Miller, Alabama - This might sound early to some, but hear me out. Pass rushers who move and bend like Miller often aren't available outside of round one. His flexibility as a pass rusher is really appealing. And for a team that will be more multiple on defense in 2019 (which I read as the team knowing they must manufacture pressure rather than rely on players who can win their individual matchup), Miller is a perfect fit due to his responsibilities on Alabama’s defense.
3 (77). DL Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois - Interior line is a low-key need for the Panthers. Dontari Poe offered little after signing a big deal. Vernon Butler never lived up to his first-round selection. Saunders has some legit flashes of interior disruption despite coming from a smaller program.
3 (100). S Marquise Blair, Utah - Stop reading this and go watch Blair’s game. He flies forward and plays outside the tackle box and inside in trash, often beating linebackers to the play. That type of upfield, aggressive style is something the Panthers clearly valued in Eric Reid. It adds to their identity on defense. This might move Gaulden to the slot.
4 (115). QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn - I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers panic a bit at quarterback, selecting one earlier than expected. Pick No. 100 is feasible, especially if a player from the tier they want to choose from is selected in round two (Will Grier, perhaps). I don’t get it. I’d rather sign Josh Johnson than try to develop a non-round one quarterback.
5 (154). RB Alexander Mattison, Boise State - The Panthers had a talented backup in C.J. Anderson last year, they just refused to use him. I don’t know what style they are looking for in McCaffrey’s backup, but rather than select a bruiser, why not side with a player who also succeeds in passing situations? A player that doesn’t force you to change your style?
6 (187). WR KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State - It appears the Panthers view D.J. Moore as an outside receiver. I’d love for them to attack the position even earlier, maybe with Miles Boykin in round two. If Not, Johnson is the type of player who can create separation and sustain it out of the slot.