CHARLOTTE – There are nine days until the start of the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Panthers have a lot of work left to do before they get on the clock with the 28th overall pick in the first round.
"The board is not even remotely close to being finished," general manager Dave Gettleman said at the team's pre-draft press conference.
Now is the time when the front office and coaching staff will fine-tune their evaluations and their player rankings.
"What we're doing is going through the readings and just initially placing players where we think they belong," Gettleman explained.
The year-long work done by college scouts helps Gettleman – who has been spending most of his time recently watching film of the prospects – place the players properly.
Additionally, individual pre-draft visits with players go a long way toward ironing out the board.
"We brought 26 kids in," Gettleman said. "We're pleased with the process that we use. It gives the coaches a great chance to do a real legitimate one-on-one with them – both as people and on the (whiteboard), which is important.
"In this day and age, especially in the top three rounds, you've got to draft guys that can assimilate very quickly and can help us now. That's what we're looking for."
As for specific positions the Panthers are looking for, Gettleman named three: "We'd like a left tackle. We'd like a young wide receiver. I wouldn't be mad if a corner was there."
Those are needs. But drafting an offensive tackle or wide receiver in the first round – the consensus expectation of draft analysts – is by no means a necessity.
"When you reach – when you have made up your mind that you are going to take a position because you feel you need to fill that spot – more often than not you are going to make a mistake," Gettleman said.
Gettleman isn't afraid to admit this is a draft with a lot of top-tier talent at wide receiver and offensive tackle.
"You all know it is a heck of a wide receiver draft, and it's a solid tackle group," Gettleman said, adding that he sees "nine or ten" first-rounders combined between those two positions.
The question is which prospects fit the mold from the perspective of Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera – a mold that has taken shape in year two of their partnership.
"Dave gives us direction in terms of what he wants us to look for," Rivera said. "What we did last year, we've improved upon."
Added Gettleman: "The coaches have articulated to us exactly what they're looking for. We've tightened that up since last year.
"The other thing that makes it better this year is that I'm less dumb," Gettleman said with a smile. "I'd like to think I'm a little better at what I'm doing."