What are the Panthers going to do in the draft? With the moves we made in free agency, it looks to me like we are going to take a defensive tackle. – Jeremy in Albemarle, N.C.
First off, I'm in no position to tell you what the Panthers are going to do in the draft because even the general manager himself can't say with complete confidence. They have a plan to be sure, but the plans of the teams that pick ahead of the No. 14 slot – and perhaps some teams right after – will play into what will remain a fluid situation until the Panthers are on the clock.
As for the likelihood of the Panthers taking a defensive tackle in the first round, history would suggest it's unlikely. The average draft has featured 2.8 defensive tackles in the first round since Carolina joined the league in 1995, with the average team taking 1.6 defensive tackles in the first round over that time frame. However, the Panthers have never used a first-rounder on one, including last year, when it was perceived as an area of need much like this year.
The list of 50 defensive tackles selected in the first round since 1995 begins with Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp, but the list includes more saps than Sapps. Still, history doesn't actually mean anything come Thursday night, and new general manager Dave Gettleman has made no bones about his affection for big-boned players. Even so, the New York Giants selected just one defensive tackle in the first round during Gettleman's 15 years there.
Hello Bryan, like some fans I do my own mock drafts. I wanted to get your opinion on one. What do you think of safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams in the second? – Bill in Charleston, S.C.
Safety is yet another position the Panthers have passed on early throughout their draft history, but they're not alone in that regard. Over the Panthers' 18 drafts, just 15 safeties have been selected league-wide in the first round. But the position has increased in value over the last few years, especially with the explosion of athletic tight ends. Vaccaro is widely viewed as the top safety in the draft, specifically one equipped to match up with tight ends.
Williams has an inspiring personal story and has local ties as a University of North Carolina product. He might not last until the middle of the second round. While the Panthers have never taken a defensive tackle in the first round, they've chosen just one in the second round. It was a successful one: Kris Jenkins (2001).
Should the Panthers draft wide receiver Tavon Austin with their first-round pick? – Timothy in Norfolk, Va.
Austin's draft status has been discussed perhaps as much as any player. His potential as a playmaker could mean he's gone before the Panthers pick, with some team possibly trading up to snag him. It is, however, very hard to project how his game will translate to the pro level, making him a risk-reward kind of pick.
Some teams might view Austin as the clear No. 1 prospect in an average-at-best class of wideouts. Other teams, however, may have him closely bunched in a group of perhaps 10 receivers, a couple of whom could possibly remain on the board until the third day. The Panthers in the past have tended to take a conservative approach to picking receivers early, selecting just one (Rae Carruth in 1997) in the first round and just three in the second round (Muhsin Muhammad in 1996, Keary Colbert in 2004 and Dwayne Jarrett in 2007). The Panthers' current starting receivers – Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell – were third-round picks.
Do you believe that the Panthers are looking at getting a quarterback in the fifth round? I think there is value there, with maybe a Tyler Wilson? – Fred in Asheville, N.C.
If there is an abundance of value, the Panthers would consider drafting a quarterback, but draft value might be harder to come by at quarterback than any other position. It's commonplace for teams to "overdraft" in the eternal search for franchise quarterbacks, and there are at least a half-dozen teams that would love to score just such a signal-caller in this year's draft. There are a few other teams that wouldn't be opposed to trying to upgrade their starting spot if the timing is right.
The Panthers last drafted a quarterback with the intention of making him a backup in 2005, when they selected Stefan Lefors in the fourth round. Again, they're always looking for value on draft day, but they only currently have five draft picks and like the makeup of their quarterback room.
Do you see the Panthers trading anybody or future picks for a third-rounder this year? – E.J. in Palmdale, Calif.
"Would I like to have a third-round pick? Sure, but where we are now, we're looking at good players," Gettleman said last week. "I've watched teams drop from the top 10 to 15th to the bottom of the first round, to the top of the second. For what? Do you want a dollar or do you want three dimes? I'd take the buck."
Gettleman's message is that he's excited about the type of player the Panthers can acquire with the No. 14 pick. But if a sudden run on quarterbacks, for example, suddenly leaves Gettleman excited about a handful of players when the Panthers go on the clock, he might listen to trade offers. In most cases, however, his "best available player" approach to drafting holds that the higher you pick, the better player you're able to pick.