With the Senior Bowl behind them and the combine and individual pro days on the horizon, general manager Dave Gettleman and his staff will be reviewing scouting reports and game film in order to draft the best class possible.
Teams generally put together a big board as a means to track prospects, and there are plenty of names on the Panthers board whom they are very interested in acquiring. These boards can change as a result of a bowl game, as well as performances at the combine and at a prospect's pro day.
Carolina has needs at wide receiver, offensive tackle and the secondary. With a pick in each round, the Panthers should be able to address all of their needs but will need to decide which position should be filled first.
An argument can be made for any of those positions of need; all of which will impact the team.
The next seven slides will discuss which players could be on the Panthers radar as they enter each round. Keep in mind this is not a mock draft, but an initial big board of this year's draft class.
Stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.
Unless Kelvin Benjamin or Marquis Lee somehow fall to the Panthers late in the first, this round is wide open.
Many people feel Carolina will address the offense with its first pick, but there is a split among those who think they should get a wide receiver and those who would opt for a lineman.
Dave Gettleman's philosophy is about building from the inside out and with that kind of thinking, the Panthers will probably be looking heavily at offensive tackles and guards.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR (FSU)
He could be available when the Panthers are on the clock, so he will warrant some early attention. CBS draft experts think he will go anywhere between 27th and 32nd in the draft, so it's possible he goes to Carolina. Benjamin has the kind of size and speed the Panthers covet and would give Cam Newton an exceptional weapon to work with on Sunday.
If he can improve his route-running, he could be one of the top rookies in the league in 2014.
Morgan Moses, OT (UVA)
The depth at wide receiver in this year's draft is very good, and that could mean the Panthers will opt to upgrade their line and find Jordan Gross' replacement.
Moses could be that guy. He gained a lot of positive attention last week during Senior Bowl practices and has the kind of quickness and strength that fits perfectly into Carolina's offensive scheme. He can play on either side of the line, so even if Gross returns, Moses will be able to compete for a starting job.
Calvin Pryor, FS (Louisville)
Pryor may not make it down the board before it's the Panthers' turn to pick. However, shoring up the secondary is a must, and Pryor could earn a few looks from the Carolina scouts going into the spring. The Panthers still have the services of Charles Godfrey and Robert Lester is an emerging player, so safety may not be as pressing an issue as cornerback would be.
Brandin Cooks, WR (Oregon St.)
This young man has been projected to go to the Panthers by both ESPN's Mel Kiper and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. The Biletnikoff Award winner could be the ideal choice for Carolina if there are no suitable options available. Cooks makes up for his deficiencies in height and physicality with speed and agility.
The speed of a receiving corps made up of Cooks, Steve Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr. would look unstoppable.
Jason Verrett, CB (TCU)
It's unknown if Carolina will re-sign Captain Munnerlyn to a long-term deal, but in the event they are unable to, they could solve the problem by drafting Verrett. The young defensive back has the ability to react quickly to the pass, along with the toughness and strength to play the position.
The Panthers could use a shutdown corner, one who would make a dangerous defense that much better. Verrett could be the kind of needed upgrade for their secondary to shut down opposing passing games.
In the second round, Carolina will probably pursue the skill-position players like wide receiver if they haven't already drafted the position. It seems unlikely they would draft a player of the same position in consecutive rounds like they did last year.
Of course, stranger things have happened.
Allen Robinson, WR (PSU)
Draft analyst Dane Brugler thinks Robinson will go to Carolina, and if the Panthers decide to draft the wide receiver position first, he could very well be on the board. However, if he were to fall into the second round and Carolina took a linemen or defensive back with its first-round pick, it wouldn't be out of the question to see the Panthers trade up to grab him.
Doing so would be an aggressive move, but it would highlight a position the team values and is targeting in the second round.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB (Florida)
This is another Matt Miller projection and one that makes sense in Round 2. Carolina needs to upgrade their secondary, and Purifoy is the type of player who can make an impact in more ways than one. Interestingly enough, his draft projections at CBS Sports has him going in the first round.
If he is available when Carolina makes their second pick, he would be a steal.
Ahmad Dixon, SS (Baylor)
Once considered a potential top pick at his position, Dixon has fallen a bit. However, he can still be a difference-maker on Sundays and give the Panthers a quality safety to back up the linebackers. Dixon is the kind of player who can patrol the entire field, but he is also the kind of player who can kill his team with penalties.
Jarvus Landry, WR (LSU)
Assuming the Panthers are looking for a wide receiver and are not going to trade up (at least not too far), Landry could be in their sights as a possible choice. He has size and speed and likes to get out and block too. The latter bodes well for a Carolina offense that saw some big plays come from receivers blocking downfield.
Dee Ford, OLB/DE (Auburn)
Ford would add both quality talent and depth at both defensive end and outside linebacker to the Panthers defense. Considering his ability to play either position, his selection would give Carolina options moving ahead.
If Greg Hardy were to leave and sign somewhere else, Ford could be the guy to replace him. If Hardy stays, Ford is in a position where he can spell either the defensive end or outside linebacker positions.
Hopefully, when the third round arrives the Panthers will have drafted the players they wanted in the first two rounds.
Round 3 has been good to Carolina in the past (Steve Smith was a third-round selection) and it would be great to see that trend continue. The Panthers should be looking to add another starter or at least someone who can compete for a starting job before they start trying to fill their roster with depth.
Will Clarke, DE (WV)
The projection of how Dee Ford would fit in with the Carolina defense could be applied to Clarke.
As noted earlier, Greg Hardy's future in Carolina is not certain. There is reason to believe the Panthers may not tag him because of the projected $12 million cost it would be to retain him for one season.
If that is the case, Carolina could draft Clarke. In his last season at West Virginia, Clarke recorded 50 tackles and six sacks. He is a big presence at 6'7" and 271 pounds. His size would complement the Carolina defense nicely. Essentially, whether or not the Panther take a defensive end in this draft will come down to the decision they make about Hardy.
Keith McGill, CB (Utah)
Just like the defensive backs mentioned previously in this presentation, McGill plays a position the Panthers desperately need to address. McGill has the talent to play cornerback well, but he has been hindered by health issues which affected his performance during Senior Bowl practices. Still, he has the size to be physical on jump balls, and if he can rebound during the combine and have a good pro day, he should be a solid mid-round prospect.
Anthony Steen, OG (Alabama)
Amini Silatolu and Edmund Kugbila both battled injuries last year and as a result, we lost for much of the season. That left a lack of available players to fill in at offensive guard and prompted Carolina to have two of the defensive tackles switch positions. Steen would be a nice addition if the Panthers front office values depth on the roster.
A proven starter at Alabama, Steen had surgery performed on his shoulder after the college football regular season ended. However, he still projects to go as early as the second round to as late as the fourth.
Jaylen Watkins, CB (Florida)
Another Senior Bowl player, Watkins had a good week in Mobile and has the kind of work ethic and maturity professional teams like to see from players. He's a hard hitter and has the ability to play either cornerback or safety. Assuming the Panthers have an offensive lineman and wide receiver by the time they are on the clock in the third round, Watkins would be an ideal selection to shore up the secondary.
Mike Davis, WR (Texas)
Should the Panthers choose to take a wide receiver in the third round, Davis could still be available. Despite a few hiccups in practice during the Senior Bowl, Davis still is a receiver with good hands and the speed to be a return man on special teams.
He could be the kind of player Carolina needs to help stretch the field and open up the passing game.
The fourth round could mark the beginning when the Panthers start adding depth to their roster. It could also be the round in which they find a mid-round gem. By this point in the draft, Carolina should have addressed their three primary needs and either add depth or continue to shop around for the best player available.
Arthur Lynch, TE (UGA)
As noted in a previous article, Lynch is a proven pass-catching tight end. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but he can do enough to move the chains and score touchdowns. His addition could reflect how the Panthers will set up their offensive scheme for next year. However, it seems unlikely Lynch will drop deep into round four.
David Fales, QB (San Jose St.)
While he is far from the type of quarterback Cam Newton is, Fales could still prove to be a valuable understudy.
Currently, the Panthers don't have any backups at quarterback and if Derek Anderson doesn't return, they will be forced to find his replacement in either free agency or the draft. If the latter happens, Fales could be worth the look. He does all the right things before the snap and has a good pocket presence. However, his lack of arm strength has been off-putting to some scouts.
Seantrel Henderson, OT (Miami)
This behemoth of a man is officially projected to go in either Round 3 or 4. Henderson has a ton of ability, but there are red flags over off-field issues and disciplinary concerns. If he can get himself on the right path, he has the potential to be a solid starter in the league. He has long arms to keep defenders at bay and compares to former Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker. He will need to have a good combine and pro day to help bring up his stock.
Prince Shembo, OLB (Notre Dame)
Carolina seems pretty set at outside linebacker. That's not say they won't entertain bringing another one in to back up Thomas Davis or Chase Blackburn.
Shembo is a native of Charlotte and could be yet another potent Carolina linebacker. As a senior, Shembo started in every game and made 46 tackles and five sacks. Perhaps his most impressive trait in college was his ability to penetrate into the backfield; he racked up 17 quarterback hurries last season.
For a team that is as blitz-happy as the Panthers, it would only make sense to add him if he is still available.
Carl Bradford, OLB (Arizona State)
This prospect is a bit of a wild card. CBS Sports has him as a second- or third-round pick, while Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has him going to the Panthers in the fourth round. If the latter is true, he would be a better selection than Prince Shembo.
Bradford posted double-digit sack numbers in 2012. He has the tools to be a great linebacker, but his size has some scouts speculating that he would fit in better at middle linebacker. Regardless, Bradford is the kind of player who would fit in well with Carolina's LB unit.
If you're still watching the draft at this point in the proceedings, you are indeed a warrior and most likely alienating those close to you. However, for the teams in their respective war room, strategy and selection become even more important.
Round 5 could be the round the Panthers decide to take a quarterback to back up Cam Newton. They may even focus on adding more depth to crucial areas or pursue another player at a position nobody currently sees coming.
Aaron Murray, QB, (UGA)
Had Murray not been injured in the home finale against Kentucky, he might be projected a little higher than a fifth-round pick. However, he has a history of being durable and when he is on his game, he is one of the best to throw the ball. He lacks the size of Newton, but he does have the ability to move around in the pocket and make plays with his legs. He can make the deep throw and knows how to find the open receiver. At 6'1", he is short by NFL standards, but he makes up for it with heart and leadership.
Jeff Janis, WR (Saginaw Valley St.)
This young man dominated in Division II, and while the smaller-school players seldom get any respect, Janis could give Carolina an under-the-radar option. He has great size at 6'2" and 212 pounds, which he used to his advantage to put up big numbers at the collegiate level. Furthermore, he impressed last week during Senior Bowl practices, even though he had an underwhelming performance in the actual game.
Tyler Gaffney, RB (Stanford)
There is no telling about what the future holds for Carolina at the running back position. There is speculation they will retain everyone from last year's roster, and there are those who have been waiting to see either DeAngleo Williams or Jonathan Stewart traded.
If the latter happens, Gaffney could be a great candidate to replace the player who leaves. Last season, Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. It remains to be seen what happens to the holdover running backs, but anything is possible.
Ryan Carrethers, DT (Arkansas St.)
Remember last year when Carolina moved both Nate Chandler and Sione Fua from defensive tackle to offensive guard?
Well, Fua is gone and there is no telling what will happen to Chandler. The Panthers have two quality young defensive tackles in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, plus the veteran presence of Dwan Edwards for at least one more season.
That being said, it may be time to focus on adding another solid player to the position. Carrethers had 93 tackles and four sacks last season, so he is able to make some noise up front. Being taken in the fifth round allows him to grow with the defense and learn from the guys who have been at the pro level awhile.
Marcus Martin, C (USC)
There is a chance the Panthers decide to add depth all around the entire offensive line, and that would mean bringing in a new center.
Ryan Kalil isn't going anywhere and Jeff Byers has served well as a backup. Martin probably would have been a top pick in next year's draft had he not declared early. He is good at what he does as he was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team this past season. He has good size (6'3", 310 pounds) for the league and would fit in with Dave Gettleman's draft strategy.
He could be the best player available late in round five if still on the board.
Round 6 will mark the next-to-last round in the NFL draft, and by this juncture, there will probably be some shock to see certain players drop to this round. Fans should not underestimate the potential of players taken in this round. Greg Hardy was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft and is on the cusp of a huge payday.
Cornelius Lucas, OT (Kansas State)
Lucas got off to a slow start in college, but found motivation again prior to his junior year in school. After that season he was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. His slow start was attributed to not having his heart in the game and that could be an area of concern for teams during the interview process. However, he could give the Panthers some solid depth at offensive tackle.
Andre Hal, CB (Vanderbilt)
Carolina has a knack for bringing in a lot of players for one position in an effort to find a standout prospect. As the saying goes, competition breeds excellence. If the Panthers haven't taken a viable starting cornerback by this point, they could look to Hal to compete with returning young defensive backs.
Hal picked off three passes last season and defensed 15 more, so he knows how to be a playmaker. If he can continue to do that as a pro, he will be a late-round steal.
Cody Hoffman, WR (BYU)
Hoffman had 100 receptionsin 2012. Unfortunately, he was unable to catch that many balls again this past season. That is not to say he had a bad year, catching 57 passes for 894 yards and five touchdowns. He could be an interesting choice late in the draft.
Aaron Colvin, CB (OU)
Before tearing an ACL last week in a Senior Bowl practice, Colvin was projected to be a first-round pick. Now, CBS Sports projects him going in the last two rounds.
His combine and pro day will give teams a better idea of where he stands. If the Carolina front office still believes that Colvin is a first-round physical talent, then they Panthers should pick him up.
Andrew Jackson, MLB (Western Kentucky)
Jackson isn't as dominating as some players at his position, but he does enough to be effective. He had 96 tackles and one sack in 2013. He has been named to the Sun Belt All-Conference team and could be the kind of player to back up Luke Kuechly or compete with A.J. Klein.
Finally, the last round of the draft is here!
Not too much is made about the last round of the draft except for the crowning of Mr. Irrelevant. Carolina should go into this round and look for the best player available, although it's likely they will be doing that in rounds five and six too. Also, they will be picking earlier in this round, as they received the New York Giants' seventh-round pick as compensation for the Jon Beason trade.
Marcus Williams, CB (N. Dakota St.)
He may have played at the FCS level, but this kid knows about winning. Being a part of the FCS national champions at North Dakota State and being named to the FCS All-American team has done a lot in shaping Williams' reputation. His experience as a champion could have a positive impact on the rest of the Carolina defensive backs in reaching the next level.
Shaquelle Evans, WR (UCLA)
Evans put together a decent final season at UCLA. He caught 47 passes for 709 yards and nine touchdowns. He could warrant a pick from the Panthers to just see what the kid has to offer.
Ryan Groy, OG (Wisconsin)
In an effort to shore up their offensive line, the Panthers might view Groy as an ideal addition. His size plays to his advantage, but he is limited in mobility. Carolina needs someone who can adjust to their quarterback's playing style and if he cannot accommodate, he may not last long.
Zack Kerr, DT (Delaware): Just like any other player taken late in the draft, Kerr would be adding depth. It makes sense for Carolina to take a defensive tackle late, but it will come down to a combination of best player available and who will still be on the team at the position.
Sean Parker, SS (Washington)
Because the Panthers pick early in the last round, Parker could still be available. He received an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2013 after posting 67 tackles, one sack and four interceptions. Carolina should jump on Parker if he is on the board when they pick for the final time.
Do you agree with the 35 players that should make up the Carolina Panthers big board? Leave your thoughts, opinions and mock drafts in the comments section below.