Inside the Panthers

NFL draft: 8 players who could be Panthers after Friday night

Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama running back Derrick Henry could be on the Panthers’ radar Friday night in the NFL draft.
Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama running back Derrick Henry could be on the Panthers’ radar Friday night in the NFL draft. AP

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wasted no time getting his latest hog molly, grabbing Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler in Thursday’s first round to add to an already-deep defensive tackle group.

The Panthers have bigger needs than defensive tackles, but Gettleman is a “best player available” guy, as evidenced by his past two first-round picks. But he knows there’s a big hole in his roster – one he wasn’t able to fill via free agency since his decision to rescind Josh Norman’s franchise tag came seven weeks after the start of it.

Asked specifically if he planned to draft a corner this weekend, Gettleman said: “Yeah, I think so.”

He laughed when I asked him if he planned to take more than one.

Reading the tea leaves here, but Gettleman didn’t sound like the need to draft an edge rusher was as pressing.

“Ron and I have evaluated the team and have talked ad nauseam about it. We feel good about Charles (Johnson). We feel good about Mario (Addison). We feel good about Kony (Ealy),” he said. “We like Ryan (Delaire). He has some solid upside. We feel like we have some good young raw talent defensive ends.”

The Panthers need a safety and wouldn’t mind drafting a tight end and a running back to add depth behind Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart with an eye on the future.

But given the state of the Panthers’ cornerback group, my feeling is they have to take a corner Friday night and should probably add a second CB by the end of the weekend.

A look at some possible Panthers targets in Friday night’s second and third rounds:

▪  Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller: Knee injury caused him to slip into the second. But will he slide all the way to 62? Panthers might have to trade up to get him, but don’t have a lot of picks at their disposal this year.

▪  Oklahoma CB Zach Sanchez: Ball-hawk who had 13 INTs the past two seasons is projected as a third- to fourth-round pick.

▪  West Virginia CB Daryl Worley: Good size (6-1, 204) and would fit in nicely in the Panthers’ Cover 2 concepts.

▪  Boise State S Darian Thompson: A big hitter with good ball skills who might not make it past the second round.

▪  Clemson S Jayron Kearse: The nephew of Jevon Kearse (aka The Freak) is big, but a little stiff in his backpedal. Can stay with tight ends stride for stride.

▪  Arkansas TE Hunter Henry: Panthers would have to trade up – way up – to nab the best tight end in the draft.

▪  Stanford TE Austin Hooper: Stanford has a strong history of turning out NFL-ready tight ends. Hooper would be a good consolation prize if Henry is off the board.

▪  Alabama RB Derrick Henry: The Heisman Trophy winner would be an interesting addition to the Panthers’ power running attack. Another guy the Panthers would have to expend a lot of capital on in trading up.

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