With the NFL Draft less than a month away, putting together mock drafts for specific teams is much easier than it was at the beginning of February.
Through free agency, the Carolina Panthers patched a few holes. While their poor salary-cap situation limited what rookie GM David Gettleman options, he managed to add depth at cornerback while re-signing defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.
At this point, the Panthers aren't expected to make any other major moves in free agency. Because of that, it's easier to climb inside of Gettleman's shoes and make some defensible projections.
Carolina still needs to improve at defensive tackle, wide receiver, in the secondary and along the offensive line. Gettleman will only have five draft picks to augment the current roster, although the Panthers may look to move back in the draft if the right opportunity presents itself.
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Please leave comments regarding what players Gettleman and the rest of the front office should target in the month prior to the draft.
Throughout the evaluation process, Sheldon Richardson has emerged as one of the premier defensive tackles in this year's class. Considering that the defensive tackle position is deep this year, it's impressive to see Richardson separating himself from the second tier of interior defensive lineman.
While Richardson is somewhat undersized to play defensive tackle in the NFL, he makes up for it with a lightning quick first step.
During his time at Missouri, Richardson proved to be quick on his feet, which aided in the strong performances he turned in against SEC competition.
With Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson creating pressure on the edges, the Panthers have the potential to have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL with the addition of Richardson.
Last season, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards compiled six sacks, which was the second highest total compiled by an interior defensive lineman.
The foursome of Johnson, Hardy, Edwards and Richardson would give the Panthers a leg up on the competition in the pass-happy NFC South. If the Panthers want to compete for a divisional title, they will have to apply consistent pressure on Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
If Carolina adds Richardson to the mix, they will have one of the league's better front-sevens.
Stedman Bailey had an extremely productive season in 2012 for West Virginia, as the junior wideout hauled in 114 receptions for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. Essentially, Bailey put up video game numbers as Geno Smith's favorite weapon in the Mountaineers' high octane attack.
While collegiate success does not guarantee a productive NFL career, Bailey has the potential to have a long career playing in the slot.
Bailey would be a reliable option for Cam Newton, as the West Virginia product is capable of moving the chains or stretching the field.
If Bailey fell to day three, it would be a major surprise. Looking at the situation realistically, I see Bailey being selected somewhere in the middle-to-late second round.
At 5'10" and 188 pounds, Bailey is too small to play on the outside. In the past, Bailey's size would have drastically hurt his draft stock. However, the progression of NFL offenses has increased the importance of slot receivers.
Steve Smith is set to enter his 13th season and will start to slow down sooner rather than later. Brandon LaFell has shown flashes of improvement, but he should be farther along considering he has been on the roster for four seasons.
Dave Gettleman needs to be proactive in surrounding Newton with explosive options and adding Bailey would be a step in the right direction.
With Jordan Gross on the decline and Byron Bell treading water at right tackle. the Carolina Panthers need to address the offensive tackle position. Cam Newton is set to enter his third season and protecting the young signal-caller as he develops as a passer should be a priority.
If Oklahoma Sooners tackle Lane Johnson is available when the Panthers select in the first round, it would not be a surprise if Dave Gettleman drafted him. How the draft will play out is unknown, but odds are that Carolina will address the offensive line later in the draft.
Based upon value, the Panthers will likely be better off targeting either a defensive tackle or wide receiver with the 14th overall selection.
In the fourth round, Dave Gettleman should take a chance on an offensive lineman who has the potential to develop into a quality starter at the next level.
Chris Faulk missed the entirety of the 2012 season after suffering an injury before opening day. Prior to the injury, Faulk was project to be one of LSU's better offensive lineman.
It was interesting to see Faulk declare for the draft rather than returning to Baton Rouge, as injured players are often better off returning to school. It's clear that Faulk wants to get paid now, but that decision may not be the right decision long term.
However, at 6'5" and 331 pounds, Faulk has the stature to carve out a solid career in the NFL. While Faulk may not make an instant impact, his presence could potentially allow Bell to shift to guard, which would make the entire offensive line better.
While the Carolina Panthers added cornerbacks Drayton Florence and DJ Moore in free agency, a team can never have enough competition in the secondary.
During his last season as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners, Demontre Hurst compiled 59 tackles and nine pass breakups.
To his credit, Hurst is active against the run, as he doesn't shy away from contact despite his 5'9", 183 pound frame. As evidenced by his nine pass breakups in 2012, Hurst has quick hands and has a knack for swatting balls down when in coverage.
While Hurst may not develop into a cornerback who plays on the outside, he has the tools to be a solid nickelback.
Depending on how the draft plays out, Dave Gettleman could also use this pick on an offensive lineman, safety or wide receiver.
Hurst would have an uphill battle in order to see significant playing time this season but would be able to contribute on special teams from day one.
While Blaize Foltz was not invited to the Senior Bowl, the guard put together a successful career at TCU. After suffering an ACL injury during the 2010 season, it took Foltz a bit of time to reclaim past his past form.
While it's impossible to quantify how the injury hurst Foltz's stock, it certainly didn't help.
Whether or not Foltz is a workout warrior is up for debate, as he was credited by CBSSports.com with a bench press of 580 pounds, an 800-pound squat, an incline bench of 530 pounds and a 430-pound clean and jerk.
There is no denying the fact that the term "workout warrior" is negative, but it also indicates physical dominance. Since Foltz is coming from a program that stresses fundamentals, he has the potential to shake such a label.
The TCU product fared well in both pass and rush protection and could provide great value in the draft's later rounds. If Dave Gettleman was able to acquire a 6'4", 310 pound guard who was productive in the sixth round, he should jump on the opportunity.