Carolina Panthers

Mel Kiper: Wideout trumps tackle for Panthers in NFL draft

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman's love of big guys has been well established.

The Panthers need a couple of big guys, specifically offensive tackles.

But they also need wide receivers, and that's the direction ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. expects the Panthers to go when they pick 28th overall in next month's draft.

Receiver and tackle are two of the deepest positions in the draft.

But the best tackles -- Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin -- likely will be gone when the Panthers pick in the first round. And Kiper isn't crazy about the second-tier selections, although he had the Panthers taking Virginia's Morgan Moses in his mock draft last week.

"I just don't see a tackle I'm excited about," Kiper said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "Morgan Moses from Virginia is a left tackle. I think he plays a little too high. He needs to bend better. He did get some improvement in that area late. I don't see anybody at 28 from an offensive tackle standpoint that would excite me over a wide receiver. And they desperately need that."

The Panthers saw longtime left tackle Jordan Gross retire during the offseason, and they lost their top four receivers. They cut franchise receiver leader Steve Smith and had three others wideouts leave in free agency -- Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon.

"They haven't had great wide receiver play, even with Steve Smith. Steve Smith was a heck of a player. Who was the other guy? Brandon LaFell dropped a lot of balls. They never had consistency opposite Smith," Kiper said.

"So it's not like this team had a great receiving corps, or a good receiving corps, anyway. Now they need multiple receivers. They've added some pieces in terms of (Jason) Avant and guys like that, and (Jerricho) Cotchery.

"But I think when you look at Carolina right now, the receiver's going to trump the offensive tackle, unless you're shocked and a Zack Martin (drops). But that's not going to happen. So I would say a wide receiver."

Kiper mentioned three wideouts he believes will be available when the Panthers are on the board -- Indiana's Cody Latimer, Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and Fresno State's Davante Adams, who led all major-college receivers with 131 catches last season.

The Panthers have met with Latimer and Matthews, the SEC's all-time receiving leader.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer