Updating the Carolina Panthers' 1st-Round Big Board Post-Combine

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Updating the Carolina Panthers' 1st-Round Big Board Post-Combine
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL combine has come to a close and the Carolina Panthers have a better idea of how their big board will shape up as draft day approaches. There were plenty of interesting results over the past few days with prospects looking to boost their stock in order to get the attention of more teams. This year's draft class will have one more chance to impress scouts with their individual pro days, and those who didn't have a strong showing at Indianapolis must use that to their advantage.

Carolina's needs in the first round seem to be limited to offensive tackle and wide receiver. However, general manager Dave Gettleman made it known at his combine press conference that the Panthers would be drafting the best player available throughout the entire draft. As a result, special consideration has been given to cornerback, safety and offensive guard.

Experts and fans alike will have a better understanding of what Gettleman's draft strategy will be when the free-agency period begins March 11th. As of now, everything involving the team's free agents and a few veterans are all part of an evaluation process.

Projected First-Round Big Board
Player School Position Grade
Kelvin Benjamin Florida State WR 6.4
Calvin Pryor Louisville CB 6.15
Zack Martin Notre Dame OT 5.97
Odell Beckham Jr. LSU WR 5.9
Jason Verrett TCU CB 5.75
Cyrus Kouandiio Alabama OT 5.75
Jack Mewhort Ohio State OT 5.6
Brandin Cooks Oregon State WR 5.6
Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt WR 5.6
Morgan Moses Virginia OT 5.3

Grades from NFL.com

The Panthers' first-round big board is certain to change between now and the first day of the draft. Until then, here is the first look at what it may look like now that the combine is over.

Looking more in-depth at the combine results, a few players lived up to expectations while others seemed to disappoint. Those in the latter category will have to redeem themselves during their school's pro day if they have any hope of being an early round selection.

 

Offensive Tackle

OT Post-Combine Chart (* denotes Top Performer)
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Shuttle Broad Jump
Antonio Richardson 36* 5.30 24.5 - - -
Taylor Lewan 29 4.87* 30.5* 7.39* 4.49 9'8" *
Zack Martin 29 5.22 28.0 7.65 4.59 8'8"
Cyrus Kouandijo 21 5.59 27.5 7.71 4.84 8'0"
Morgan Moses - 5.35 21.5 7.93 4.95 8'8"
Jack Mewhort 28 5.37 26.0 7.79 4.64 8'4"

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

One of the two biggest needs for Carolina in 2014. Now that Jordan Gross has retired, the time is now to find his replacement. Taylor Lewan had a great combine and was very impressive. He will be on the Panthers' big board, but unless they trade up to get him, he should be gone by the mid-first round.

That leaves a few notable tackles who are more than capable of being long-term solutions for the Panthers. Protecting Cam Newton will be vital to the success of the team moving forward,and having a reliable offensive tackle will be a very important piece of the offensive puzzle.

 

Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

He dominated on the bench press as a top performer, and despite his participation in just three drills, he should have made quite an impression on the Carolina scouts. His 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press will play an important factor as the strength of offensive linemen weighs heavily on the decision-making process. If Richardson repeats his combine performance at Tennessee's pro day and proves that his knees are not an issue, he should be on Carolina's short list.

 

Zack Martin, Notre Dame

A popular choice among fans to go to Carolina, although Bleacher Report's Matt Miller feels his arm length and and height are not conventional for playing left tackle. Still, there is no denying the upside of this young man. Martin is one of those players who would be considered the best player available if he were to fall late in the first round.

 

Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

It's unknown if the Panthers were one of several teams to fail Kouandjio following his combine performance. The results of his physical and his knees are a major cause for concern. Carolina is all too familiar with the setbacks a knee injury can present, and it's unlikely the team would be interested in investing a first-round pick into a player with a series of medical concerns. That being said, Kouandjio participated in all of the drills and, as expected, turned in a rather slow 40-yard dash time of 5.59 seconds. He'll be on the radar but shouldn't warrant a first-round selection unless he turns in a strong pro day.

 

Morgan Moses, Virginia

He didn't have the best combine compared to some of his peers, but he didn't have the worst either. Moses met with teams like the Baltimore Ravens who are in need of help at offensive tackle. The former Cavalier looks to be a solid pick early in the second round, but if he raises his draft stock, he could make a case as a late first-round selection. With Carolina picking 28th overall, he could be on the list of players for team scouts to keep an eye on when the draft arrives.

 

Wide Receiver

WR Post-Combine Chart (* denotes Top Performer)
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Broad Jump Shuttle
Kelvin Benjamin 13 4.61 32.5 7.33 9'9" 4.39
Brandin Cooks 16 4.33* 36.0 6.76 10'0" 3.81*
Jarvis Landry 12 4.77 28.5 - 9'2" -
Odell Beckham Jr. 7 4.43 38.5 6.69 10'2" 3.94*
Allen Robinson - 4.60 39.0 7.00 10'6" 4.00
Jordan Matthews 21* 4.46 35.5 6.95 10'0" 4.18

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

There was a lot to take away from this group as some players disappointed and others were just phenomenal. The popular argument among fans is the need for a wide receiver over an offensive lineman. 

Ultimately, it will come down to Gettleman's decision and his perception of which position needs to be addressed first.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

One of the most popular names among Carolina fans entering the draft, Benjamin didn't exactly wow anyone at the combine. In all fairness, his 6'5” frame makes it a bit difficult to run a sub-4.4 40. He has been labeled as inconsistent but has a lot of upside. If he can have a better showing at his pro day, he could gain more steam from wide receiver-needy teams.

 

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

If this kid possesses the tenacity and competitiveness of Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith, he could be a lock as the team's first choice. Cooks was impressive at the combine and earned top performer in the 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle run. He even put on an impressive display of strength with 16 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He may be short, but he showed scouts he has great speed, leaping ability and strength. Despite a respectable vertical leap, it's a different animal going against defensive backs for a jump ball.

 

Odell Beckham Jr.

Labeled a perfect fit for the Panthers by NBC and Rotoworld's Josh Norris on CBS' Mac Attack. Beckham turned in a solid performance and came away as a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle run. Norris cites Beckham's ability to create separation and catch jump balls as reasons to be a strong candidate to be Carolina's first draft choice. If the Panthers were to draft a receiver first, this guy would probably the pick.

 

Defensive Backs

DB Post-Combine Chart (*denotes Top Performer)
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Broad Jump Shuttle
Justin Gilbert 20 4.37 35.5 6.92 10'5" -
Jason Verrett - 4.38 39.0* 6.69 10'7" 4.00*
Marcus Roberson 8 4.61 37.5 6.84 10'0" 4.08
Kyle Fuller 12 4.49 38.5 6.90 10'7" 4.19
Bradley Roby 17 4.39 38.5 - 10'3" 4.04

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

The secondary is far from where the Panthers would like it to be, and depending on how the free agency period shakes out, the needs at cornerback and safety could warrant a first-round pick. It should be interesting to see if the Panthers are able to re-sign both Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell. If they can, it makes the decision-making process a little easier heading into the draft's opening round.

 

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

There is a reason why he is considered an early selection this year. His combine numbers back up his reputation as a physical cornerback who has speed. The only knock on him was his vertical jump as it paled in comparison to some of his highly regarded peers. That being said, it shouldn't hurt his draft stock too much.

 

Jason Verrett, TCU

He has been mocked to Carolina, and if the team is willing to overlook its needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver, there is a real chance he could be drafted by the Panthers. He has the speed to keep up with receivers and posted some impressive leaping ability in the vertical jump. There is much to like about Verrett, and he should give the Carolina secondary a much-needed boost if taken.

 

Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Another defensive back who has a good combination of speed and strength is Roby. According to his combine numbers, he is slightly slower than the two previously mentioned cornerbacks and looks to be a competitor on jump balls. Roby is projected as a second-round pick, and if the Panthers cannot find who they are looking for when they are on the clock, he may be the guy for them.

 

Others to Watch

It's hard to fathom a scenario where Carolina takes a player who isn't an offensive tackle, wide receiver or cornerback. However, history has shown us that sometimes teams can throw experts and fans a curveball with their first pick.

 

Safety Post-Combine Chart
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Broad Jump
Jimmie Ward 9 4.59 - - -
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 11 4.58 33.0 7.16 9'9"
Calvin Pryor 18 4.58 34.5 - 9'7"

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

Considered the best player at strong safety, he is still a solid second-round player. That doesn't mean the Panthers will overlook him. The secondary needs help and the futures of Charles Godfrey and Mike Mitchell could dictate how Carolina will go about setting its priority level for the position.

 

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Much like Ward, Clinton-Dix will be on Carolina's watch list as the draft approaches. Unlike Ward, he probably won't be available for Round 2. If by some chance he falls to the Panthers in the first, this young man makes a compelling case for best player available.

 

Calvin Pryor, Louisville

If there is any free safety who could fall to Carolina, it's Pryor. Once again, the best player available will have to outweigh the team's biggest need if the Panthers are to consider him. Pryor had a solid combine and showed some impressive strength on the bench press. He may leap frog Clinton-Dix as the better free safety before May arrives.

OG Post-Combine Chart (* denotes Top Performer)
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Broad Jump Shuttle
David Yankey 22 5.48 28.50 7.81 8'6" 4.86
Xavier Su'a Filo 25 5.04 25.00 7.60 8'5" 4.44*

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

 

David Yankey, Stanford

Carolina needs an offensive tackle in the worst way. However, offensive guard is not much better, and for a position that was lacking in depth on the interior of the line, if a guard is the best player available, it shouldn't shock anyone to see the Panthers draft one in the first round. Yankey does have tackle experience and could be moved to that position. His strength and base allow him to be an effective blocker.

 

Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA

His strength allows him to avoid being bull-rushed. That was a problem for the Panthers a few times during the past season. The need to protect Cam Newton from the inside could prove valuable enough for Carolina scouts to give the former Bruin a long look. Both players could be available when the Panthers are on the clock. In order to be drafted, both men are going to have to present some valuable stock into their position.

 

TE Post-Combine Chart
Player Bench Press 40-Time Vertical Jump 3-Cone Drill Broad Jump Shuttle
Eric Ebron 24 4.60 - - 10'0" -
Jace Amaro 28 4.74 - 7.42 9'8" 4.30

NFL.com/CBSSports.com

Taking a tight end as the team's first selection has been discussed by a couple of media outlets, and while it wouldn't be a bad idea to find another pass-catching tight end to insert into Carolina's offense, the first round could be a bit too early. Nonetheless, there are two players who could be on the short list for Gettleman to review when he makes his decision.

 

Eric Ebron, North Carolina

Ebron displayed a nice combination of speed (for his position) and strength in Indianapolis. He has been compared to Vernon Davis, and if paired with Greg Olsen on the field, Newton would have two very strong targets to throw to on both short and intermediate routes. Unless something unexpected happens, Ebron should be off the board before Carolina is able to pick. If not, he should be the best player available.

 

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

Of the two best tight ends in this year's group, Amaro has a realistic shot at being available for the 28th pick. He proved to be a little stronger than Ebron but was slower in the 40-yard dash. There are concerns about adding some bulk to his frame as he may not be a suitable tight end for every offense, but he may have squashed those perceptions with his combine performance.

 

Dee Ford, Auburn

Assuming Greg Hardy is on his way out, adding a defensive end to the list of Carolina's needs would present a headache. If the hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker has a great pro day, he could help his stock. However, he was not medically cleared to participate in the combine. If Hardy needs to be replaced, the Panthers could draft a defensive end early. If Hardy is able to be retained, the position can be overlooked at least for the upcoming season.

 

Which position will Carolina address first in the draft?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Conclusion

Carolina has a lot of work to do over the next few weeks. Attending each school's pro day should be the only remaining business to take care of until draft weekend. There are many players who are strong and viable candidates to be the Panthers' first choice, but it will come down to the guy who not only fills a need, but gives the team the best chance to win.

The next few weeks will be stressful.

Dave Gettleman hit a home run with his first two draft picks of last season and, with the depth of this year's draft, should be able to do the same. The key will be finding that player who can enjoy continued success like Carolina's previous first-round draft picks and make a significant impact from day one.

 

Combine stats and information gained from NFL.com and CBSSports.com.  Draft and prospect rankings courtesy of CBSSports.com.

Panther Nation, you can follow me on Twitter

 

 

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