The Panthers had a solid defense last year. They were Top 10 in yards allowed but #11 in points allowed. This defense needs to inject some youth and talent, coupled with their new DC to avoid taking a step backward.
Mario Addison will be the DE1. Julius Peppers will return for one last go around in a pass-rush subpackage role. Behind these two, Wes Horton and 3rd Round sophomore Daeshon Hall will see snaps. This is one of the biggest weaknesses on this defense.
The Panthers replaced Star Lotulelei with free agent signee Dontari Poe. This is an upgrade for the interior D-Line. Poe will be lining up across from Kawann Short. Short remains an IDP stud. Poe’s signing definitely hurts all the people who drafted Vernon Butler two years ago, knowing Carolina couldn’t pay both Short and Lotulelei.
Carolina has a fantastic trio of LBs but they need to start thinking about the future. Headlined by Luke Kuechly, the trio includes Shaq Thompson and Thomas Davis. Davis will miss the first four games due to suspension. He’s already said this will be his final season. Past the top three, they have a number of JAGs.
James Bradberry turned into a solid CB in his second season. If the season started today, former Bill Kevon Seymour would line up across from Bradberry with Captain Munnerlyn in the slot. Depending on their opinion of Seymour, they could be looking to add another CB.
Mike Adams returns to start at SS. Currently, the best FS on their roster, since Kurt Coleman is now on division rival New Orleans, would likely be Colin Jones. Jones split snaps when Coleman missed a few games last year. I don’t think Carolina plans on starting the season with 30-year-old, former 6th Rounder, Jones starting at FS.
Draft Needs – S, CB, DE, LB
Carolina has potential to build a fearsome D-Line in their first draft post-Gettleman. Gettleman always emphasized interior pass-rush to the detriment of their edge. Adding a top-tier edge to learn under Peppers for a year before taking over full-time next year could quickly turn a weakness into a strength, depending on their opinion of Hall. They also need to add a starter at Safety, depth/future starter at LB and a potential starter at CB.
The Panthers currently own:
1st Round #24 overall
2nd Round #55 overall
3rd Round #85 overall
3rd Round #88 overall
5th Round #161 overall
6th Round #197 overall
6th Round #218 overall
7th Round #234 overall
7th Round #242 overall
If I were the Panthers GM, I’d take Josh Sweat at the end of the 1st. You can cover for weaknesses in the secondary by having a pass rush that limits the time the QB has to get off the throw. Realistically, the Panthers will likely improve their secondary. Justin Reid (1st Round), DeShon Elliott (2nd Round) and Armani Watts (3rd Round) would all be options for starting FSs for Carolina.
Whichever 1st Round CB drops, among Joshua Jackson, Jaire Alexander and Denzel Ward, could be a target for Carolina. If they wait until Day 2, Isaiah Oliver, Tarvarus McFadden or Quenton Meeks would be solid options for a starter at CB.
There are several mid-round LBs who could serve as Davis’ heir. If they do draft one, don’t get too excited and overdraft them. There’s a chance, depending on who they draft, that Shaq earns the 3-down role next year. Genard Avery, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Nick DeLuca or Jack Cichy could all be options.
Lastly, if they don’t spend a 1st Round pick on DE, they could still upgrade a little later in the draft. Sam Hubbard, Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Kylie Fitts could all be options later in the draft for a developmental Edge to potentially try and replace Peppers in a season.
For more in-depth analysis of these players, you can get the 2018 Rookie Roundup for FREE and read up on the IDP relevant draft prospects.
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