The Carolina Panthers selected Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, even with arguably their top options at both of their biggest needs still available.
General manager Marty Hurney said the team wanted to address its pass rush and offensive line this offseason. Thursday night, Hurney indicated that he believes defense was the more pressing need. He chose Burns over Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat with the 16th pick while bypassing offensive linemen Andre Dillard of Washington State and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford.
Trading back apparently wasn’t an option.
“We did not (consider trading back),” Hurney said Thursday. “We had a group that, when certain guys were there, we were going to stick and take. As soon as (Washington) took (Ohio State quarterback Dwayne) Haskins, we decided we were going to take Brian.”
Hurney told local media last week the Panthers were prepared for every scenario in the draft’s much-publicized opening night. He wouldn’t say how close to “Plan A” drafting Burns was but as the round carried on, the possibility of taking him at No. 16 became more likely.
By the time the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins took Rashan Gary and Christian Wilkins with the No. 12 and No. 13 picks, respectively, Hurney said the Panthers’ draft room felt confident Burns would be available.
Now, they can look to their remaining six picks.
“We definitely have a plan going forward (Friday) and Day 3, but I’m not ready to tell you that right now,” Hurney smiled. “Every time we talk about the first round, for every pick, we have a plan and a follow-up plan. Now we just have to execute it and hopefully it works out.
“Again, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Honestly, if you were to ask me three or four days ago ... I really wondered whether (Burns) would get to us, and he did.”
So with edge rusher out of the way, what are Carolina’s priorities moving forward — starting with their No. 47 overall pick?
Passing on one of the draft’s premier offensive linemen in the first round means the position is now toward the top of the Panthers’ remaining needs. They re-signed OT Daryl Williams and added C Matt Paradis but still lack a natural left tackle or a left guard of the future. Both positions could be addressed with their No. 47 overall pick.
Possible fits: OT Cody Ford (Oklahoma), OT Dalton Risner (Kansas State), OT Jawaan Taylor (Florida), OT Greg Little (Ole Miss)
Head coach Ron Rivera said safety Rashaan Gaulden, the Panthers’ third-round pick in 2018, will get a look at nickel cornerback, leaving a hole next to Eric Reid in the secondary. Carolina still needs a free safety as Reid is a more natural fit closer to the line of scrimmage. Given the lack of safeties taken in the first round, there could be a rush on the position early Friday.
Possible fits: FS Nasir Adderley (Delware), FS Deionte Thompson (Alabama), FS Juan Thornhill (Virginia), S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida)
After Captain Munnerlyn’s release, Carolina needs a starting-caliber nickel cornerback. Gaulden will get a look at the position, as will Corn Elder — neither of whom should stop Hurney from selecting another corner if the right player is available.
Possible fits: CB Byron Murphy (Washington), CB Rock Ya-Sin (Temple), CB Greedy Williams (LSU)
Rounds 2-3: 7 p.m., Friday (ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, NFLN)
Rounds 4-7: Noon, Saturday (ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, NFLN)
Panthers’ Remaining Picks: Round 2 - 47th; round 3 - 77th and 100th; round 4 - 115th; round 5 - 154th; round 6 - 187th.