Carolina Panthers Team Needs: Draft Wrap Up
After the sudden and shocking departure of All-Pro Josh Norman, the Carolina Panthers saw a glaring void at the cornerback position glare even brighter. So what did general manager Dave Gettleman do in the 2016 NFL Draft? Well, maybe you can ask his second, third and fifth-round picks what happened.
Gettleman spent three consecutive selections on cornerbacks--James Bradberry of Samford, Daryl Worley of West Virginia and Zack Sanchez of Oklahoma. And in doing so, the Panthers became just the third team in draft history to swipe up three corners with three straight picks.
Take that, glaring void.
But in so drastically addressing one area of need, did Gettleman and his front office overlook the others? Where could the Panthers look to upgrade as we inch ever closer to training camp?
We had the strong safety spot here before the draft and it shall remain following no discernible additions over the past month.
Roman Harper, who started at the position in 2014 and 2015 for Carolina, has since seen his contract voided and has not been asked to return by the team. That leaves third-year defensive back Tre Boston as the very likely replacement.
In his two NFL seasons, Boston has played in 32 games (including the playoffs) at the backend of the Panthers' secondary. While the former North Carolina Tar Heel is steadily improving, he has yet to fully solidify his status as a reliable starter. Until he does, head coach Ron Rivera will be looking for someone--whether that be Boston, Dean Marlowe or Trenton Robinson--to serve as the next man up. (See the problem?)
If not, can Gettleman find another patented garage sale deal at strong safety?
Offensive Line Depth
Other than the aforementioned group of corners, the Panthers used their draft selections on defensive tackle Vernon Butler (first round) and tight end Beau Sandland (seventh round). So no, they still haven't drafted that "franchise left tackle" folks are annually screaming for. But as alluded to before the draft, the Panthers are actually decent enough along their starting offensive line.
The lack of depth, however, is what poses the worrisome questions.
Carolina may be carrying a suspect crop of depth behind the trench of Michael Oher, Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil and Mike Remmers. That bunch is headlined by center Gino Gradkowski, guard Chris Scott and second-year tackle Daryl Williams. If a starter eventually succumbs to injury, the Panthers will have to dig deep to protect quarterback Cam Newton.
Running Back Depth
Staying on the theme of potential injury concerns and a lack of depth, running back Jonathan Stewart doesn't have much behind him.
Mike Tolbert, at this point in his career, is primarily just a fullback and Fozzy Whittaker is only a viable option on passing downs. If Stewart happens to get reacquainted with his well-documented injury issues, Cameron Artis-Payne would be the fill-in.
Even though Artis-Payne filled in rather nicely for Stewart at the end of the 2015 regular season--averaging 4.8 yards per carry in three starts--is he ready to take over a heavy workload in a run-heavy offense?