Most teams that go 12-4 and win their division the season prior don’t go into the next year’s draft with a ton of holes to fill. But that’s exactly the situation the Carolina Panthers face heading into the 2014 NFL draft.
They are in trouble.
Carolina’ best asset along the offensive line, tackle Jordan Gross, retired. So did guards Jeff Byers and Geoff Hangartner. Guard Travelle Wharton is leaning toward retirement as well, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer:
#Panthers FA guard Travelle Wharton, attending South Carolina pro day, says he is leaning toward retirement. But no final decision yet.— Joe Person (@josephperson) April 2, 2014
As it stands right now, quarterback Cam Newton is in danger of getting mauled on every play.
If he does find the time to throw, his cadre of receivers is gone. Every wide receiver who caught a pass for the Panthers in 2013 is now with some other team, even the face of the franchise, Steve Smith. Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood have been added via free agency, but the depth and skill level at wide receiver are dwindling.
On the defensive side of the football—Carolina’s forte—the secondary lost a lot of talent.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell, the two members of Carolina’s secondary with the most snaps played in 2013, left via free agency. The Panthers did add cornerback Antoine Cason and safety Roman Harper, but there is still work to do to get this defensive backfield back to 2013 levels.
Carolina has a job ahead all-around to return to the playoffs in 2014. Free agency hasn’t gone well for the Panthers, mainly because of a lack of funds. They have to hit paydirt in the draft.
They have seven picks in the draft, one in each round. Here’s how they might use each pick.