This week, we're going to take a look inside the heads — or at least inside the rosters and offseasons — of the five teams currently picking ahead of the Panthers in the 2022 NFL Draft. What they've done and will do will impact what the Panthers are able to do at No. 6, so it's better to know the landscape ahead of time. Monday we started with the Jaguars at No. 1.
CHARLOTTE — The Lions were sitting right in front of the Panthers a year ago, and directly impacted their plans by selecting Penei Sewell.
Picking second overall this year, the chance of them altering the Panthers' course is less immediate, but they could still change the landscape at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft.
As we discussed yesterday, the Jaguars present an uncertainty at the top of the draft, making it hard to nail the first pick down at the moment. So the Lions aren't in a bad spot, knowing they could have a shot at perhaps the most complete pass-rusher in the draft. And in a year without top-end quarterbacks, those are valued commodities.
The Lions could stay where they are, and know they're going to get an impact player somewhere. That could even end up being Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, a hometown pick that would make all the football sense in the world.
What they need: The Lions could use a lot of help on defense, at every level.
Picking second overall is not the natural spot to consider linebackers and safeties, though, so most of the attention has been focused on the defensive line.
Whether it's Hutchinson or Georgia's Travon Walker, or Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon, there will be someone there who can make a difference.
The Lions could also use playmakers at receiver, but again, picking a wideout second overall isn't exactly the best way to find value at a time when more and more qualified pass-catchers are available deeper in the draft.
Offseason moves: The Lions had a low-key offseason, working the fringes of the market rather than making big splashes. They did bring former Jaguars wideout D.J. Chark in on a one-year deal, offering some needed help on offense.
They also released veteran defensive end Trey Flowers in a cap-saving move, creating a hole in the defensive front seven.
Possible clues: A year ago, the Lions drafted offensive tackle Penei Sewell a spot in front of the Panthers, a tease because Carolina came so close to adding the pedigreed pass-protector they've lacked since Jordan Gross' retirement.
So with Sewell and Taylor Decker in place, we can reasonably take the Lions off the list of teams interested in Ickey Ekwonu or Evan Neal this year, clearing the decks a bit for Carolina.
Do they need a quarterback? I mean, they have Jared Goff, so the answer is maybe, or eventually.
But like the rest of the teams in this year's market, they also know this year is not stocked with top-10 talents at that position.
The Lions did coach Liberty's Malik Willis at the Senior Bowl (along with UNC's Sam Howell), and got an up-close look at the top talent available at the position. Head coach Dan Campbell was a fan of Willis' ability to pick up a playbook in a short amount of time. Second overall would likely be too rich for Willis, but in the NFL, you either have one or are looking for one.
How they impact the Panthers: Not as much as some of the other teams in the top five.
The Lions can make an easy pick here, and a safe pick, and do themselves a lot of favors. If they want a quarterback, or get on the phone with someone who wants to move up for a quarterback or something else, they could complicate the whole process. But at the moment, they're probably the team in the top five with the least impact on what Carolina does.
View photos from the weight room as Panthers players returned for offseason workouts on Monday.