The Carolina Panthers took several leaps forward in 2013, all leading up to a 12-4 record and a playoff appearance. Although it had an early exit, Carolina still has much to be hopeful for going forward. They will likely be the favorites to win the division next year, but they do have some improvements to make.
As I'm sure most fans know, the Panthers need more talent at the wide receiver position.
Especially with Brandon LaFell becoming a free agent, Carolina desperately needs a No. 2 receiver to complement and ultimately succeed Steve Smith. They will have a chance to reel in a pretty solid receiver when the draft rolls around as this year's crop is as good as it has been in recent years.
Considering the way in which the league is evolving and how players are constantly getting bigger and more athletic, it would be worth it for the Panthers to enlist a big-bodied receiver that they can plug into their offense.
There are a few guys to consider, one of whom is Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin.
I've written before that the Panthers should draft him because of his size and playmaking ability, two things they largely lack at the wide receiver position. He's not the best prospect they could draft, but given that they will draft late in the first round (barring a trade), he might be the best player on their board.
There is another receiver who is better overall and would fit into their offense well, but he may not be available when they select 28th overall. That player is Texas A&M's Mike Evans, and he will be a dominant receiver in the NFL.
Evans is the type of player who may be worth trading up to get, and that could be how the Panthers decide to go at this. We've seen Riverboat Ron take different kinds of gambles before, and trading up to get a guy like Evans may be a wise move.
The next position that Carolina will have to address is the offensive line. While they're pretty solid on the interior, they could definitely use a bookend tackle to complement Jordan Gross on the left side, assuming they can re-sign Gross.
The tackle position will leap the wide receiver position in terms of need if the Panthers do end up losing Gross, but let's just say they do, for argument's sake. One guy they could potentially draft to come in and play right away is Morgan Moses.
The former UVA Cavalier has ideal size for a tackle and has garnered much respect after a strong Senior Bowl week. He's very quick for his size and has long arms that aid him in pass protection, but he can also flip the switch and power away his opponents in run blocking.
Antonio Richardson is another tackle who could fit into Carolina's system nicely—it could probably get him in the second round if it opts for a receiver in the first.
Which position is more important to upgrade for Carolina?
At University of Tennessee, Richardson demonstrated he can handle speed and power rushers. He also has a massive frame that helps him shed defenders with ease.
One of his most notable performances of this past season came against Alabama in a game where he didn't give up any sacks to Bama's ferocious pass rush.
Any of these guys could come in day one and play for the Panthers; they would all considered be smart choices. It just depends on how the first 27 picks play out.
In a perfect world, Carolina would land Mike Evans in the first round and Richardson in the second, but we all know the NFL is nowhere near a perfect world. Despite that, the Panthers must spruce up their offensive line and wide receiver position, and the draft will be a great opportunity to do so.