The 2019 NFL draft begins Thursday, April 25 and finishes on Saturday, April 27. What does this mean for the Carolina Panthers, or actually, what should the Panthers do?
The team’s top two needs are to get more protection up front for quarterback Cam Newton and to revitalize their pass-rush game.
With four picks in the top 100, the Panthers are well-positioned to improve their roster significantly by way of the draft. The team’s needs match the strength of this class of draft-players. Here are a couple areas that need to be thought about and addressed.
While help is needed in almost every position for a team that went 1-7 over the last eight games of the season, ending with a 7-9 record, the initial focus should be on offensive tackle. The Panthers have to take better care of their quarterback who is recovering from last year’s injuries and a second post-season shoulder surgery. The OT position is essential in getting and keeping Cam healthy. Any of the following draft options—Cody Ford from Oklahoma, Jawaan Taylor from Florida, Jonah Williams from Alabama, or Andre Dillard from Washington State—would be a good choice and should be able to do the job the Panthers and Cam need. I hope the Panthers will draft an OT with their Number 16 pick on Day 1.
Unfortunately, Carolina doesn’t know how much time they have remaining with Cam or how healthy he will be moving forward. Team management shouldn’t be hesitant about developing a young quarterback. Last year they passed on taking a quarterback, and they may well pass on the position again. But if a quarterback they like is available in the middle rounds, then they should select him and prepare for the future. Even without Cam’s injuries, he will be turning 30 in May and his contract expires at the end of this season.
Regardless of what the future holds for Cam, protecting the team’s quarterback should be a priority and with less high quality options at tackle available, management could initiate on a trade up and offensive lineman in the first round. The Panthers have options to move through a trade and with prospects on both sides of the football. Targeting an offensive lineman, specifically a left tackle, or defensive end appears to be the goal this year. However, there are far fewer high quality tackles available than defensive ends this draft season. Carolina could make a move, land an immediate starter on offense in round one and then address the pass rush with an edge rusher as the draft continues. This is not a bad strategy considering there will be more quality pass rushers available on day two than tackles.
Hopefully, the Panthers will make some smart draft selections and will be able to make a run for the Super Bowl again soon (this year maybe?).