Carolina Panthers Draft Needs: Offense or Defense

Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA;Carolina Panthers offense huddles up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA;Carolina Panthers offense huddles up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mario Addison
Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison (97) rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /


The Panthers defense has been strong for the past 4 years or so.  Sure there were times last season where they didn’t look so great…i.e. Julio Jones 300 yards via Matt Ryan.  Although it could be argued that two young rookies were adjusting to the speed and talent of the NFL.  Not to mention that Captain, leader, Pro Bowler, and arguably NFL’s best defensive player Luke Kuechly missed the final 6 games with a concussion.

They still had the second most sacks in the NFL, the rookie corners learned quickly and look to develop even further in year 2, and pieces have been added in Free Agency to improve furthermore.  Former Colts Pro Bowl SS Mike Adams steps in as a veteran presence with a lot of game left.  Captain Munnerlyn returns to mainly play the Nickel Corner, but don’t be surprised to see him on the field in other positions.

However with the age of Adams and not having great depth in the secondary, the Panthers may look to add a Safety and/or a corner in the draft.

This adds depth and veteran players to form a talented secondary.  Kuechly is back and ready to go, and in his 3rd season, Shaq Thompson is expected to see higher snap counts while learning and earning praise from starting OLB Thomas Davis.  Combine that with a defensive line returning most of their sack leaders, and adding future Hall of Famer and former Panther Julius Peppers, and they look ready to roll.

“So why would the Panthers want to add to their defense?”

This is a good question, and one that doesn’t seem apparent on the surface.  However, lets look into this.  On the defensive line, Kawaan Short still hasn’t signed his franchise tag for this season.  All signs point to him signing it, but what about next year?  Do they sign him to a long term deal?  In the same off-season where Star Lotulelei’s contract also runs out?

The Panthers have last year’s 1st Round Pick Vernon Butler gaining experience, but you have to imagine that there is a good chance that one of the two current starters will be gone.  On the edges, 3 of the 4 defensive ends will be at least 30 years old by the 3rd game of the season.  Julius Peppers will most likely retire after this season.  All of this doesn’t look great for a GM that loves bulking up his defensive line.  Look for the Panthers to add to their depth in the form of DE at some point in the draft, possibly adding another or a DT.

More from With the First Pick

The linebacker core looks to be set also, but Thomas Davis is getting older, and it can never be forgotten that he had 3 ACL tears.  Luke Kuechly has missed 9 games over the past two seasons, and that is a real concern.  Shaq Thompson hasn’t picked up the game as fast as some may have thought.  The Panthers can live with these concerns, but behind them is where it gets cloudy.

Backup MLB A.J. Klein left for the Saints in the offseason, leaving David Mayo, Jared Norris, and Jeremy Cash as the only linebackers for depth, none of which have played considerable minutes in important game time scenarios.  That may leave management a little too worried not to at least bring in a veteran in Free Agency that can play those positions.

Hopefully that paints a more descriptive picture than originally thought.  Plenty of Mock Draft “experts” seem to be in unison that the Panthers will take Leonard Fournette with their first pick, but don’t be shocked if the Panthers go elsewhere.  The needs I believe them to address in this draft or somehow in free agency in the order of importance are:


What do you think?