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How finale set draft position, standings

Where will the Panthers draft, and what are the biggest needs? – Greg in Whiteville, N.C.

The Panthers are set to select 14th in first round the 2013 NFL Draft, which will kick off April 25. Carolina was one of five teams to finish with a 7-9 record and will pick fourth among those teams in the first round (the order among those five teams will shift for subsequent rounds).

The ties were broken by strength of schedule, with the team that played the easiest schedule picking first among the group. The logic goes that the team that recorded a 7-9 mark against the easiest schedule had the worst season and thus should draft the highest. The Panthers, by the way, had a tougher schedule than 11 of the 12 playoff teams.

As for the biggest needs, the Panthers (like most teams) can use help in a multitude of areas, among them the secondary, wide receiver and the offensive and defensive lines. It's early in the scouting process, but names that currently are slotted toward the middle of the first round include cornerback Dee Milliner (Alabama), wide receiver Keenan Allen (California), defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) and Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) and offensive tackles Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and Eric Fisher (Central Michigan).


I see on the website that the Panthers finished the season in second place in the division. I thought divisional ties went down to head-to-head competition, and since the Buccaneers swept the Panthers, shouldn't we have finished third? – Ryan in Bostic, N.C.

The Panthers finished in a three-way tie with Tampa Bay and New Orleans. The Buccaneers did sweep the Panthers, but the Panthers swept the Saints, who swept the Buccaneers. The next tiebreaker after head-to-head is division record, and all three had a 3-3 mark.

Things begin to clear up with the next tiebreaker, which is common games. NFC South teams faced the entire NFC East and AFC West this past season, and the Buccaneers are eliminated here after going 3-5 in those games while the Panthers and Saints went 4-4. At that point it goes back to head-to-head between the Panthers and Saints, and that's how Carolina wound up in second place.

Concerning Ron Rivera's record, has everyone forgotten that he took over the job as a new head coach with a rookie quarterback without an offseason to adjust to all the changes? The coach DESERVES at least one more season. – James in Mars Hill, N.C.

That certainly is a part of the equation when it comes to determining the future of the coaching staff, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. Rivera was hired two years ago this month but had little interaction with his new team for the next six months as the league's work stoppage wiped out the typical offseason program.

Coming off a 2-14 mark with little preparation time, the Panthers exceeded expectations in 2011 by going 6-10 and coming close in nearly every loss. They also created expectations – fair or not - that weren't met over the first 10 games of the 2012 season, only to turn things around in a big way over the last six weeks.

What dictionary did you find "STRICKLY" in - that's not a word. The word is STRICTLY. People have more confidence in what they read when the spelling and grammar are correct. – Rob in Salisbury, N.C.

As I'm sure many of you are aware, I write regular columns on that are labeled as "Strickly Panthers." Many of you (but obviously not all) also are aware that my last name is Strickland, and "Strickly Panthers" is merely word play off my last name and the word "strictly."

You know, like the Cycloanalysts bike repair shop or the Lattetude coffee shop?

Thanks for the question. I welcome the opportunity to spell it out (no pun intended) for those who may not have noticed.

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