Interim general manager Marty Hurney likes everything about the draft process, and this time around, he likes where the Panthers stand heading into it.
"This is an exciting time of the year," Hurney said while taking in Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. "We have a very good nucleus of veteran players that showed what they can do. I think we were disappointed that we didn't go further this year.
"Now the next three or four months are going to be very important for us to make moves to try to improve. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."
The Panthers enter draft season in a pretty good position, coming off an 11-5 campaign that netted a fourth playoff appearance in five years. Yet there's lots of work to do and holes to fill, and the Senior Bowl is a starting point for that process – a process that began long ago with Panthers scouts evaluating the draft-eligible prospects at the Senior Bowl but that now amps up.
"We know these kids pretty good, and now is the start of the process," Hurney said. "The East-West practices last week and the Senior Bowl this week, and then you have the combine, the pro days. It's all a part of the process that leads to draft day.
"This is the fun part of the job, coming down and seeing these kids. We came down and started (Monday night) with the interviews, and you get to get to know these kids. You get to see them out with pro coaching – a lot of these players have to make a transition for NFL offenses and defenses – and we get to see how they go against other draftable players. It's a fun time of the year."
The roster will look different next season, and so will the team's roster of coaches. Both sides of the ball will be have new coordinators in 2018, with Norv Turner taking over on offense and with defensive line coach Eric Washington taking over the defense after coordinator Steve Wilks left to become the Cardinals' head coach.
"We're going to miss Steve, but we're all happy for him. He deserves it. We're really excited for him," Hurney said. "But Eric Washington is such a good coach. Our players respect him very highly. I think he's going to be great in this role.
"Plus Ron Rivera has been one of the best defensive coaches in the league for decades, and we have a defensive system in place that Eric knows well. I think it really is going to be a seamless transition."