Depends on what you consider early. If you mean at No. 24, I'll say no.
I talked a lot about this with Max Henson on the latest Panthers Podcast, but the abridged version is I think there are only two safeties worth a top-25 pick in this draft. And Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick aren't making it to 24.
If you're going to spend a first-round pick on a safety – especially for a defensive scheme where that position is relatively low in the pecking order of importance – it should be on a tone-setter, a guy who'd immediately change the swagger of the backend. James or Fitzpatrick could do that. I'm not as sold on Ronnie Harrison or Justin Reid, who's seen a recent surge in mock draft matchmaking.
That's not to say I don't think the Panthers could use Harrison or Reid. Both could be Week 1 starters, and safety needs to be addressed sometime this draft. There will still be some good options on Day Two. I'd use No. 24 on a cornerback or best player available who would just so happen to line up with another position of need.
Website submission from Richard in Fayetteville:With us picking 24th in the 1st round, do you see a scenario that we trade back to accumulate second-round picks and still get good talent in the second round?
This is a common and fair question for teams picking in the 20s. What makes trading back from those spots tough is other teams in the 20s may also be looking to slide down, so potential trade partners aren't always incentivized to give up what you'd want. Plus, it's not ideal to completely fall out of the first since those picks include a fifth-year option. But sure, I could see a scenario.
Come the night of the 26th, the Panthers will have narrowed their focus to, at most, a half dozen guys. If all or most are gone by the time they're up, it's worth listening if another team calls.
After top-5 pick Bradley Chubb, this draft class is underwhelming at defensive end. I wouldn't use the Panthers' first there.
And don't think I don't notice you slipping in another way to ask, "What are the chances?"
Email from Zach: Bill, am I the only one concerned about our linebacking situation? Granted, if healthy, we're set for this year. But, Thomas Davis is gone next year and Luke Kuechly is one major concussion away from potential retirement. You good with David Mayo going forward?
You're not alone. A few others have chimed in with similar concerns the past few weeks.
Sure, the options thin out when you go down the "if healthy" path, but that'll usually happen at any position despite how stacked it is. As it stands today, the Panthers have bigger holes elsewhere.
I think Mayo deserves a chance to continue to grow into the A.J. Klein backup role, and until Thomas Davis actually stops showing up, are we really convinced this is his last year? I'm not.
Now, you're alone in asking this one.
Neither Charles Johnson will be back.
Yup. I could see that happening as early as the first.
But like in previous drafts, if they end up exiting without a tight end, that wouldn't necessarily mean they didn't have at least one on their wishlist.
Email from Aaron:Yo Bill, is there a scenario where Panthers invest a high pick on Lamar Jackson as a development prospect behind Cam Newton? He seems a decent fit for the scheme and has many of the same weaknesses Cam went through early.
I can see the Panthers doing it but I wouldn't.
That has nothing to do with whether I think Jackson will be a good pro. I won't pretend to have a good read on that. But this roster – and the storyline that will follow the former Heisman Trophy winner – would make him an ill fit.
Jackson wants to play quarterback. He's not supplanting Cam Newton. So if Jackson's just sitting on the bench, say as a third-round pick, there would be increasing pressure to play him. Calls would grow louder and louder to try him at wideout instead of wasting away behind Newton. It'd be … a thing.
The Panthers would love to get a young quarterback into the pipeline, and on paper, Jackson would make a lot of sense. But he and them can find better fits.
I'm simple. Steak.
Would consider ditching the grill for this marvel that showed up on Product Hunt this week. The $900 price tag is a bit much, though.