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A draft analyst's take on Panthers' needs

Posted Jan 27, 2017

Draft analyst Josh Norris shares his thoughts on the Panthers' needs and how they could be addressed in the 2017 NFL Draft.

During a conversation with Panthers.com at the Senior Bowl, Rotoworld and NBC Sports draft analyst Josh Norris identified a few areas of need for Carolina that could be addressed in the 2017 NFL Draft.

1. Big-play threat at WR or RB

On this topic, the discussion immediately turned to two of the biggest names in the draft: running backs Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook.

“I would say Fournette is the better fit, and a lot of people are going to say, ‘Well, he’s not a big-play threat like Dalvin.’ I think Fournette can create big plays. We saw plenty of 20-plus yard runs,” Norris said. “And some people might say Dalvin doesn’t run with power, but he does. His yards after contact are amazing.”

Norris acknowledged that Cook offers more in the passing game with his ability to turn short passes into game-breaking plays by making people miss.

When it comes to wide receivers, Norris highlighted speedy pass-catchers that work from the slot and can win after the catch. There are several intriguing prospects with that skill set competing at the Senior Bowl.

“I absolutely love Taywan Taylor – you can put him outside or inside,” Norris said of the Western Kentucky product.

Zay Jones out of East Carolina is another wide receiver that earned praise during Senior Bowl week. Norris was impressed with his ability to win in the slot and on the outside.

2. Edge rusher

Carolina ranked second in the NFL with 47 sacks in 2016, but Norris believes the Panthers could use help at defensive end so they don’t have to rely so heavily on blitzes to generate pressure.

“That edge spot is absolutely loaded in this year’s class,” Norris said.

Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett is expected to come off the board in the first few picks, but Tennessee’s Derek Barnett could be an option worth exploring at No. 8 overall.

“He’s an interesting one. He might not be as pure a pass rusher in terms of a bender, or a flexible guy, but he has the power,” Norris said. “I think he’s more (the Panthers’) traditional type.”

Norris also touted the ability of Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams, who may not have ideal size but makes up for it with explosive pass-rush ability.

3. Left tackle

With the uncertainty surrounding Michael Oher and with Mike Remmers set to become an unrestricted free agent, the offensive tackle spot is one to watch.

Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Utah’s Garett Bolles are widely considered the top offensive tackles, but Norris is keeping an eye on Troy’s Antonio Garcia, who is taking part in the Senior Bowl.

Garcia isn’t a mauler in the run game, but Norris thinks he has the “left tackle feet” that general manager Dave Gettleman looks for.

“Garcia is really good. Watch that Clemson game, and you’ll be blown away,” Norris said. “He’s an excellent pass protector who has a finishing mentality against the run.”