Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman began his predraft press conference Tuesday by saying he wouldn’t discuss any specific prospects.
But the second-year GM said plenty about the position groups where the Panthers need help, which happen to align with two of the deepest areas in the draft.
“I’m not going to insult your intelligence. You all know it’s a heck of a wide receiver draft and it’s a solid tackle draft,” Gettleman said.
Gettleman said he gave only two wideouts first-round grades last year, presumably among the group of Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson, all of whom went in the first round and had solid rookie seasons.
Gettleman believes a total of 10 offensive tackles and receivers have first-round talent this year. Most experts agree there are four sure first-round tackles – Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews and Zack Martin.
Do the math. That leaves as many as six first-round wideouts on the Panthers’ board, a couple of whom are expected to be available when Carolina picks 28th.
Of course, Gettleman also reminded media members Tuesday how fond he is of defensive players, particularly those of large stature. He also dropped another colorful phrase on sports fans in the Carolinas.
A year after using the term, “hog mollie” to describe defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, the first two draft picks of the Gettleman era, the Boston-bred Gettleman trotted out another descriptive beauty in explaining why he wouldn’t rule out going after another defensive lineman.
“You guys can look at me like I’m crazy,” Gettleman said. “But if there’s a blue goose pass rusher or a blue goose defensive tackle sitting there, I’m not going to be afraid.”
Someone asked Gettleman what a blue goose was. He smiled and said, “A guy that can help right now.”
The Panthers need help in several areas after losing their top four receivers, watching their longtime left tackle ride off into retirement and seeing half of their so-called No-Name Secondary bolt for bigger deals elsewhere.
Along with trying to fill the holes left by the departures of receiver Steve Smith and tackle Jordan Gross, Gettleman also mentioned cornerback as a possibility.
“We’d like a left tackle. The guys we have that are competing there we have confidence in. But it’s a matter of playing there. It’s a matter of reps,” Gettleman said. “You’d like a young wide receiver. You wouldn’t be mad if a corner was there. I’m not going to lie to you.
“Again, it doesn’t mean we’re going to sit here and say, ‘We’re taking a wide. We’re taking a tackle. We’re taking a corner.’”
Gettleman said the extra two weeks before this year’s draft meant additional film study for the former scout and New York Giants’ longtime pro personnel director. Gettleman began meeting with the Panthers’ college scouts last week, and has been sitting down with the coaches this week.
“The board’s not even remotely close to being finished,” said Gettleman.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera praised Gettleman’s draft prep.
“Dave takes immaculate notes. He really does and I think it’s a reflection of him having been a pro scout for so long,” Rivera said. “He sits down and he pulls those notes out and he goes over them and talks about things he wanted to do differently, and we put those into motion.”
The Panthers used 26 of their allotted 30 visits to bring prospects to Charlotte.
Carolina has met with or worked out several of the wideouts expected to be taken in the first or second rounds, including Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Southern Cal’s Marqise Lee, LSU’s Odell Beckham, Indiana’s Cody Latimer and Fresno State’s Davante Adams.
After the Panthers signed free agents wideouts Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant, Rivera said he would prefer taking a blocker to protect Cam Newton rather than another receiver.
The Panthers have talked to offensive tackles such as Virginia’s Morgan Moses, although they are not believed to be enamored with the crop of second-tier tackles after Robinson, Lewan, Matthews and Martin.
And while the Panthers’ defensive line looks set with the additions of Lotulelei and Short, and the strong play of ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, it’s worth noting Hardy could be a $13.1 million rental if the Panthers fail to reach a long-term agreement with the player they franchise-tagged in March.
“We believe in defense,” Gettleman said. “The goal is to get to the Super Bowl, and win. If you look at the NFC (playoffs), and who was in it, it was the teams with the best defenses. Seattle was one, we were two and I think San Francisco was four or five. I’ve just seen it too often – it’s really hard to with an average defense.”
Notes: Offensive tackle Byron Bell, the top candidate to replace Gross, is expected to sign his restricted free agent tender by Friday’s deadline, according to a team source. The Panthers offered Bell a second-round tender worth $2.187 million. Another team would have to give the Panthers a second-round pick this year if they want to sign Bell.
Rivera said the Panthers had about 95 percent participation for the first week of offseason workouts last week. Gettleman declined to comment on the $1.3 million salary advance the Panthers agreed to give Hardy if he shows up for the workouts.