Tom Sorensen

Carolina Panthers have needs. Here’s how they should approach the NFL draft.

Analyzing the Panthers' options in the 2018 NFL Draft

The Carolina Panthers have the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jourdan Rodrigue breaks down who the team might take with that pick.
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The Carolina Panthers have the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jourdan Rodrigue breaks down who the team might take with that pick.

The Carolina Panthers can use, in alphabetical order, a cornerback, a defensive end, an offensive lineman, a running back, a safety, a tight end and a wide receiver.

They have one of the best tight ends in the NFL, so they can wait on the tight end.

By trading for Torrey Smith, they also have the receiver they required, in this case a receiver that has run a 4.36 40. Smith is 29, a year older than Ted Ginn Jr. was when the Panthers first signed him.

Some question Smith’s hands, but not as loudly as they questioned Ginn’s. They share a trait: their legs compensate for what the hands might lack. A defense has to account for speed. Ginn changed defenses simply by lining up outside a tackle.

The great receiving corp mystery is Curtis Samuel. He has run a 4.31 40. But he was hurt most of last season, when he was a rookie. Some considered him a low-brid out of Ohio State, which is the opposite of a hybrid. Is he a running back or is he a receiver?

Samuel is a receiver. Even thought he was often injured, I assume he acquired knowledge through osmosis. If Samuel is ready to be a factor, imagine him, Smith, Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen simultaneously breaking the huddle. On two.

In the first round of the April 26 draft, the Panthers could draft a cornerback, a defensive end, an offensive lineman, a running back or a safety. Before they play their next game that counts, they will require one of each.

If I’m the Panthers, I invest the first pick, the 24thoverall, on Stanford safety Justin Reid, Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson or Louisville cornerback, and former Rocky River high school star, Jaire Alexander.

The average age of Carolina’s safeties is approximately 43. They need a safety, and Reid is a good one.

Iowa’s Jackson likely will be gone when the Panthers draft. Alexander is more likely to be available. Alexander also has run a 4.3. He’d be a fine fit in Carolina’s defensive backfield.

Neither a safety nor a cornerback is as exciting as a running back or a receiver. Yet if the Panthers believe in Samuel, do they have to pick up another receiver early in the draft?

I can see Carolina taking a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman in the second round and a running back in the third.

I like Nick Chubb out of Georgia. He should be available in the second round when the Panthers make the 55th pick in the draft. Yet it’s tough to imagine him being available when the Panthers make their third-round pick, the draft’s 85th.

Carolina has no fourth-round pick but has once in the fifth round, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. Love to see the Panthers parlay some combination of picks to move up in the third round and make a run at Chubb.

At worst, Chubb will be solid. At best, he’ll be a backfield fixture and a fine counterpart to last season’s top pick, Christian McCaffrey.

I suspect that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will find ways to get the ball to Samuel, who might offer the quick-twitch reaction McCaffrey lacks. Flip a pass into the flat and see what Samuel can do with it.

The draft, which is in Dallas this year, will be compelling because it is always compelling. It would be compelling in Dallas, N.C.

Be interesting to see what Marty Hurney, in his second stint as Carolina’s general manager, elects to do.

A prediction: No matter how many 300-pound linemen Hurney takes, he will not use the term “hog mollie.” Up in New York, Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman, who replaced Hurney in Carolina, probably will.

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

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