Really looking forward to this season, especially with the moves Mr. Gettleman has been making. If you could recommend one game to me in Charlotte, what would it be? – Zachary in Winston-Salem, N.C.
While it's a game you can come to Bank of America Stadium and see every year, I'm going to have to go with the Week 9 showdown against the Atlanta Falcons.
The NFC South foes have combined to win the last five division titles and have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl the last two years. Not a real shocker here, but the Panthers have won four of the teams' six matchups in their most three recent division title seasons (2013-15) and the Falcons have won three of four in their most recent division title seasons (2012, 2016). While the first matchup of 2017 will be the Panthers' third division game and could put them in a strong position if they happen to claim a win against each division foe, it will actually be the Falcons' first division game (crazy enough, Atlanta's other five division games come over the final six games of the season). Regardless of where it falls on the schedule, though, Panthers-Falcons gameday typically produces a certain intensity that's fun for fans.
Looking at the home schedule, you can't really go wrong, from a marquee matchup against the Packers (Week 15) to primetime visits by the Eagles (Week 6) and Dolphins (Week 10). For my money though (actually, your money), it's hard to go wrong with the Falcons matchup. Single-game tickets go on sale April 29.
Reading too much into mock drafts has my head spinning every day. In your honest opinion, what is a real case scenario on draft day? Trade up/down, RB, DE, DB? I'm puzzled. – Gage in Charleston, S.C.
You and me both.
First, I'll tackle your question about whether the Panthers might trade up or down from No. 8 when the 2017 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday evening. My feeling is that no matter how the first seven picks play out, there's still likely to be at least one player the Panthers are excited about picking. That, and the quality of depth in a draft where Carolina holds four selections in the top 98, makes me think it's unlikely the Panthers give up picks to trade up. Now, if there are an abundance of players the Panthers are excited about when they're on the clock, trading down might make sense. My sense, however, is that the Panthers will have a pretty clear pecking order among their top prospects and would more likely just pick the top guy left than mess around and trade down.
As for the position puzzle you asked about? Let's let another reader set that one up again.
Gettleman says defensive tackle is a deep position in draft. Please don't tell me that DT is something they might consider in Rounds 1-3? – Gustavo in Charlotte
"If there's a position we're particularly strong in and our turn comes to draft and the best player on the board is at that position, I've shown that I'm not afraid to do it," Gettleman said at last week's annual pre-draft press conference. "You can't have too many good players at any position."
Just last year, the Panthers selected Vernon Butler in the first round to join a defensive tackle group already featuring Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Mind you, this best-player-available model does have its limits: Assistant general manager Brandon Beane matter-of-factly mentioned at the pre-draft presser that the Panthers aren't in the market for a quarterback in Round One, and Gettleman has admitted there was no way the Panthers weren't going to be busy at cornerback in last year's draft.
But, back to the previous question from Gage regarding whether the Panthers are most likely to pick a running back, defensive end or defensive back in the first round, the answer is all are very possible depending on what happens with the first seven picks of the draft. Gettleman has again positioned himself to take the best available player and, aside from a couple of caveats, that's exactly what Carolina will do. I believe a true defensive tackle in the first round probably is one of those caveats. On Day Two, though, I'd say anything is possible.
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View photos of teams the Panthers will face during the 2017 regular season, presented by PrimeSport.