2012 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers' Biggest Needs
The 2012 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Carolina Panthers have a good amount of needs to fill.
They have a top-10 draft pick in 2012 which will help them solidify one of their positions for years to come. The Panthers also have to find good talent deep in the draft as they have a lot of holes that need to be filled in this draft.
Carolina hit the nail on the head in last year's draft when they took quarterback Cam Newton first overall. He will be their franchise quarterback for a long time—now they just have to build around him.
Like any young team in the NFL, the Panthers have some talent but need to get some depth and more skill players to really compete in the league.
Let's take a look at four of the Panthers' biggest needs heading into this NFL draft.
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The Carolina Panthers could definitely use a cornerback to start opposite Chris Gamble.
Gamble is a solid No. 1 corner for the Panthers, but they do not have a good No. 2 behind Gamble.
R.J. Stanford was the other starting corner for the 2011 season, but he was not the long-term answer.
The Panthers are likely to use their top-10 draft pick on former Alabama corner Dre Kirkpatrick. This seems to be the choice that most analysts believe will be made, and it is a very good one for the Panthers.
If former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne somehow drops to the Panthers, then they will undoubtedly draft him, but Kirkpatrick is the more realistic option.
The Panthers could likely find another good corner in the early rounds, but Kirkpatrick has the skills to be a day-one starter and immediately help the Panthers' defense.
In 2011, Carolina was ranked as the 24th defense against the pass. A solid No. 2 cornerback opposite of Gamble would allow the Panthers to have a solid secondary, which is what they need playing against teams like the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
Drafting a solid corner this year is definitely a concern for the Panthers.
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The defensive line of the Carolina Panthers could definitely use some help this offseason.
The Panthers finished 2011 as the 25th ranked team against the run and in sacks, with only 31 throughout the entire season.
Carolina needs some improved play from a defensive line that did not give them much in 2011, and they can achieve this in the NFL draft.
The Panthers have a top-10 pick and could use it on a defensive lineman, but they could probably find players in the other early rounds that would be just as good as the first round guys.
Carolina may not be able to draft Quinton Coples with where they are, but they could get their hands on defensive end Melvin Ingram or defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
If the Panthers decide to use their first-round pick on the defensive line, then I would think that they should go after Brockers.
He is a physical presence in the middle of the line and is great at shedding blockers and getting to the ball carrier. Brockers is also able to get pressure up the middle, something that the Panthers have missed in recent years.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Panthers have to find some more defensive linemen, and it would benefit them more to do so in the early rounds.
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The Carolina Panthers are not in a desperate need for wide receivers, but they could use a physical presence opposite of Steve Smith.
Smith is also not getting any younger and the Panthers may need to consider that going into this draft.
There are some talented receivers in this year's draft, but the only one worthy of a top-10 pick is Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, and he will be gone by the time the Panthers are on the board.
I do not believe that the Panthers' need for a receiver is worrisome enough to spend an early-round draft pick on a player.
However, the Panthers could find a talented receiver in the middle rounds that could immediately help their offense and give quarterback Cam Newton another target.
A receiver like Greg Childs, Ryan Broyles, Marquis Maze or Jarius Wright could come into Carolina and immediately help an offense that is already very good.
The Panthers will be okay if they do not use this draft to bring in a receiver, but it would definitely be smart to pick up a talented player in the middle rounds.
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The offensive line in Carolina is still a very good one, but some of the players are getting up there in terms of age.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Panthers should take some late-round picks on the offensive line and try to steal a late-round gem out of this draft.
The Panthers' division opponent (the New Orleans Saints) have done this in the past with guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, and they now have two of the best guards in the league on at the same time.
The Panthers need on the offensive line is not overwhelming, so if they do not draft an immediate starter this year, then that is okay. However, they do need some quality depth on that unit and the draft could help.
The only offensive lineman that the Panthers would take in the first round would be USC tackle Matt Kalil, but the chances of him falling to the Panthers are about slim-to-none.
Other than Kalil, I do not see the Panthers drafting a tackle. They may consider taking Riley Reiff, but I believe that the needs on defense are much more overwhelming.
I believe that we will see the Panthers draft some linemen in the later rounds of the draft, and this would help fill a hole that is currently very apparent.
Who knows, the Panthers may end up drafting the NFL's best tackle in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.