Tom Sorensen

How can that No. 24 draft pick improve the Panthers? History shows a rich legacy

With the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL draft, do the Carolina Panthers take a wide receiver, like Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk?
With the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL draft, do the Carolina Panthers take a wide receiver, like Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk? AP

NFL officials mock most mock drafts. I’ve done a few, and most of us guess. We see that a team needs a tackle, find a tackle on the board and plug him in. How can they pass on him? But sometimes we don’t guess. Sometimes we know.

The 2018 NFL draft, which will be in Arlington, Tex., does not begin until late April. The NFL Scouting Combine is still more than two weeks away. And at some point Carolina Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney will cease to be interim and he will be the general manager, or somebody else will.

So we have no idea what the Panthers will do. As the draft approaches, some writers and broadcasters locally and nationally will know at least which way a team is leaning. I knew in 2011 that the Carolina Panthers would select Cam Newton with the first pick. And, no, he wasn’t always the top pick. A. J. Green, the receiver who went fourth to the Cincinnati Bengals, was long atop Carolina’s draft board.

The Denver Broncos, who drafted second, had hired former Carolina coach John Fox. Conventional wisdom was that they’d select Alabama tackle Marcell Dareus. But somebody who knew Fox said that Denver would take a more athletic and disruptive player. He said that Fox would take Von Miller. The source was right.

So I got No. 1 and No. 2 correct. I think I missed the next 30.

The Panthers pick 24th in the 2018 draft, and in mock drafts I’ve seen them pick a defensive back, a defensive end and a receiver. They’ve never picked 24th, but have twice selected 25th, and twice done well with the pick.

In 2007 the Panthers took Jon Beason, the linebacker out of Miami. (New England took Beason’s teammate, safety Brandon Meriweather, 24th.) In 2015 the Panthers took linebacker Shaq Thompson 25th out of Washington. (Tackle D.J. Humphries, who played high school ball at Mallard Creek, went 24th to Arizona.)

What do the Panthers need before the 2018 season begins? They need a receiver. I have written, however, several times that Curtis Samuel, whom the Panthers selected in the second round of the 2017 draft, can be the deep threat they lacked this season.

So what if, with the 24th pick in the 2018 draft, they add another receiver such as Christian Kirk out of Texas A&M? Or do you prefer that they invest the pick on a cornerback or safety?

What’s a 24th pick worth?

Safety Ed Reed, who needs to be in the NFL Hall of Fame, went 24th in 2002. Johnathan Joseph, the fine cornerback out of Rock Hill and South Carolina, went 24th in 2006. Dez Bryant went 24th in 2010. Cameron Jordan, the very good pass rusher for the New Orleans Saints, went 24th in 2011. David DeCastro, the Pro Bowl guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, went 24th in 2012. And back in 2005, Aaron Rodgers went 24th to the Green Bay Packers.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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