The offseason has raised more questions than answers, leading many to speculate on which course of action the organization will take over the next few weeks leading up to the draft. Until recently, the Panthers' most glaring need was at defensive tackle.
However, with the release of Chris Gamble and with Captain Munnerlyn still on the open market, their options at cornerback have become extremely slim. They did sign Drayton Florence on the first day of free agency, but he doesn't figure to be a long-term solution. Carolina may consider upgrading the position through the draft and bringing in young talent.
There are a few notable cornerbacks in this year's draft, but with the exception of Dee Milliner, none appear to be a top-10 selection. While the Panthers could possibly use their pick at 14th overall and select a corner, chances are they will pursue a defensive tackle first.
An interesting second-round choice would be selecting former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu has the talent to be a playmaking corner, but his off-field issues got him in trouble, ultimately leading to his dismissal from the university in 2012. Those issues have been the topic of discussion amongst the football scouting circles, and the lack of playing time last season initially hurt his draft stock.
A mock draft done nearly a year ago here on Bleacher Report had Mathieu listed as a first-round selection and taken in the middle of the round at 16 overall. What a difference a year makes. Initially, he fell off many draft boards following his dismissal being a seventh-round choice at best. Luckily, he had a good combine and has been the focal point of the NFL Network in recent days.
Does Carolina take a chance on him in Round 2?
The idea definitely needs to be explored as the Panthers may value a strong secondary in the pass-happy NFC South. As noted earlier, Carolina lacks a real threat at corner, and safety isn't much help either. Bringing in Mathieu would give Carolina a player who can be disruptive despite his 5'9" frame.
As a refresher, Mathieu played in 26 games while he recorded 136 tackles (16 for a loss), six sacks, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Additionally, he succeeded in special teams, gaining 421 yards on 27 returns and scored twice.
Another reason why the Panthers should consider him in the second is because they lack a third-round selection. Mathieu projects to be a second- or third-round pick by CBSSports.com. It would be in the Panthers' best interest to strongly consider Mathieu because he could very well be the last best cornerback off the board.
There is a chance the Panthers could roll the dice and trade down so they can acquire a third-round pick. This will allow Carolina to address its need at defensive tackle and possibly draft Mathieu in the third so it can use its second pick to take a wide receiver or offensive lineman. Regardless of how you look at it, it's a big gamble and a lot would need to happen in the Panthers' favor for that to happen.
While there may be concerns about Mathieu's off-field dealings with drug use, it seems that he is ready to put all of that in the past and look toward the future. He has the potential to be a great player in the NFL, and for a Carolina team in desperate need of a strong secondary, the kid affectionately known as the "Honey Badger" would be a welcome upgrade.
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