The Panthers are a young, tough team, and John Fox is capable of leading them to the playoffs as he enters the final year of his contract.
Julius Peppers headed to the Windy City, but I’m still a believer in Carolina’s ability to be recognized as one of the better teams in the NFC.
Longtime Panther Brad Hoover will be missed in the community and locker room, but second-year fullback Tony Fiammetta looks ready to assume his role.
On offense, I believe they’re absolutely fine with Matt Moore as their quarterback, but he needs another dependable receiver besides Steve Smith. Muhsin Muhammad is a class act, but 14 years in the NFL have taken their toll. Dwayne Jarrett is another USC bust at receiver.
The other positional need is that of depth along the offensive line—especially at guard.
On defense, they really missed the run-stuffing play of Maake Kemoeatu when he was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in the preseason.
Linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are excellent, but they might consider adding a fast outside linebacker.
They are without a fifth-round pick after exchanging it for former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Tank Tyler, a third-round pick in 2007. He’s a nice run-stuffer and should only improve.
Last year’s third-round pick, Corvey Irvin, spent last season on injured reserve, but he projects as another run-stuffing tackle with enough strength to collapse the pocket.
Everette Brown and Charles Johnson head into the season as the starting defensive ends. I like Brown’s chance to take a big step forward in his second year, but he alone won’t replace the pressure in the backfield generated by the departed Peppers and possibly soon-to-be departed Tyler Brayton.
Their secondary is tough and underrated, but as with most teams, it could use a bit more depth.
After trading their 2010 first round pick last year to San Francisco, Marty Hurney and his staff will wait until midway through the second round to make their first pick unless he somehow moves up—something he’s done the last two drafts.
Because of the unpredictability of what’s available once they make their initial pick on Friday night, I won’t say one position of need is sure to be filled with that pick. However, I am comfortable predicting their first two picks (Round Two and Round Three) will be defensive end and wide receiver—in either order.
Wait, another Trojans receiver? Despite the negative feelings Panthers fans may have about drafting a wide receiver from the same school as Jarrett, there’s a major difference between the two.
Williams is the best route-runner in this class, and he also has some of the best hands. He’s not as fast as Steve Smith, but he’s a mature, hard-nosed player who can be a perfect complement to Smith.
One of the record-setting early entry prospects in the 2010 draft, Worilds is a lightning-quick lineman with an explosive first step.
He’s available in the third round mainly because he’s seen as a “tweener,” but he should be able to add 10 to 15 pounds without sacrificing his quickness.
Worilds is a pass-rushing terror who will endear himself to teammates and coaches in the weight room and during two-a-day minicamp sessions with his effort and focus.
Without a fifth-round pick, this is really the last opportunity Hurney will have to have somewhat of an idea of the talent he’s selecting besides relying on the crapshoot otherwise known as the sixth and seventh rounds.
Either way, I think an offensive guard or defensive tackle makes sense if the positional selections go as I’ve predicted thus far.
Defensive tackle is the deepest it’s been in years, so the Panthers' war room benefits by grabbing a prospect with high potential to go along with starter capability, such as Linval Joseph.
The East Carolina Pirate is skipping his senior year, likely a result of Pirates head coach Skip Holtz deciding to take the open job at the University of South Florida.
Joseph can easily disrupt passing lanes, but he’s still adjusting to his new body after shedding almost 60 pounds.
A First-Team Conference USA selection, Joseph is surprisingly explosive off the snap, which, combined with his impressive strength, makes this sleeper a nice fit for the Panthers.
Hurney will strongly consider adding to a fairly thin offensive line rotation, but there’s no reason not to entertain adding another receiver.
Easley was one of the true surprises at the Combine, as he ran a 4.46 and finished in the top 10 amongst several drills and tests—including the bench press.
Some players in this draft have had to work for everything they've achieved thus far in their careers, and there’s no reason the drive stops now. The Huskies' best receiver was a former walk-on who exploded this season and is considered a late riser.
He has intriguing size and will contribute immediately as a special-teams asset on an otherwise weak part of the team.
With Jake Delhomme’s release, I’d be surprised if they don’t find a veteran quarterback to come in and hold down the backup spot.
But if they don’t, perhaps Carolina will have drafted one a round or two earlier. If not, they could target a player with lots of upside such as Brown.
He has prototypical size, and although his delivery and release could be described as unorthodox, it’s deceptively quick.
The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year finished the season ranked second in the nation for passing yards and set numerous records in his division.
Brown is an ideal prospect to groom as a backup and to keep Moore from being too content. Moore played well in a limited role last year, but if he proves to be nothing more than a marginal backup, the Panthers have a gamer who led Troy to its first 8-0 conference record in school history.