Carolina Panthers Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post Combine
The Carolina Panthers don't have many holes in their roster, but do have glaring needs where there are holes. Wide receiver was their biggest concern for awhile, but given the recent announcement that Jordan Gross is retiring, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, offensive tackle has instantly become their biggest need.
Gross was an integral part of their running game and was also a consistently great blocker on Cam Newton's blind side. They would be able to lock in a nice replacement in the first round, and Zack Martin of Notre Dame would be a great prospect to consider when the Panthers are on the clock.
After the first round, Carolina will need to target a wide receiver to start across from Steve Smith and also some defensive backs to bolster their secondary.
The 2014 NFL draft is a great opportunity for the Panthers to get better, and they will definitely be taking advantage of it come May.
Round 1: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
As I mentioned in the first slide, the Panthers suddenly have a glaring need at offensive tackle given Jordan Gross' retirement, and they must address that issue in the first round of this year's draft. Although their wide receiver and secondary corps do need some work, the hole left by Gross is too big to ignore.
So, who is the ideal lineman for Carolina target in the first round?
Although the top-tier tackles like Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews will be off the board, this is a pretty deep class for tackles, and the Panthers could find much relief in Zack Martin.
The former Notre Dame Fighting Irishman possesses great size, and proved himself as a solid choice for as an NFL tackle during Senior Bowl week. He does well in both the passing and running game, making him an ideal fit for Carolina's hybrid offense.
Given their recent balance between passing the ball with Cam Newton and running the ball with any of their talented backs, the Panthers could depend on Martin as a long-term replacement to Gross, and he would be a starter from his first snap in the NFL.
They may still target someone in free agency to hold down Newton's blind side while Martin develops and adjusts to the league's speed, but sooner or later he will make for a great successor to Gross.
Round 2: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The former Penn State Nittany Lion would be a great pickup for the Panthers on the second day of the draft. He's a taller, longer receiver at 6'3" and was extremely productive in his final year in State College.
Robinson recorded 97 catches, 1,432 yards and six touchdowns during his junior season, and proved himself as a solid vertical threat under Bill O'Brien.
Considering that he didn't have too great of a combine, he will more than likely be available at the bottom of the second round when Carolina is on the clock. He will be a valuable addition to a Panthers offense that is void of a tall receiver to stretch the field across from Steve Smith and will develop into a solid No. 2 receiver at worst.
Round 3: Keith McGill, DB, Utah
The Panthers secondary was a weak point on an overall stellar defense last year, and will need to be addressed in this year's draft. They don't necessarily need someone who can start right away, but rather a dependable rotational player that could develop into a starter.
When looking at their viable options in the third round, Keith McGill is a name that stands out more than most others that would be available. He's much bigger than many of the other corners in this draft, making him a potential option as a safety if he can adjust well.
McGill had a notable week of practice during Senior Bowl week, namely in one-on-one drills. He would be a nice, physical addition to a Panthers secondary that could definitely use the depth.
Worst case, McGill plays in certain packages as a rookie and gradually assumes a larger role as the season goes on.
Round 4: Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin
The Panthers don't have a need at tight end, but would certainly benefit from having a second tight end backing up Greg Olsen. Jacob Pedersen fits the bill of what they're looking for, and that is a good blocking tight end who is good for a catch every now and then.
He didn't have great quarterback play during the last two years, but still showed some ability as a receiver. At 6'4", 240 pounds, Pedersen has the frame to pack on more mass and bulk up into an even bigger, better blocker.
Given Olsen's ability as a pass-catcher, Pedersen would be a nice complement as a blocker in both pass protection and the running game. He could also be an H-back in some packages.
Round 5: Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
As I mentioned earlier, the Panthers need some help in the secondary, and drafting a safety in the fifth round wouldn't be a bad idea. A great choice would be Tre Boston, who spent his collegiate days not too far away in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina.
Boston has the ability to play both cornerback and safety as he demonstrated during his days as a Tar Heel, and that versatility will especially garner a look from the Panthers.
He had 94 tackles, five interceptions and eight pass breakups during his final year at UNC, stats that reflect he gets in on most tackles and can also contribute in run support. He would be able to contribute right away in a minor role, but would likely take on more and more responsibility in the defense as the season goes on.
Round 6: Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
Carolina could use some depth along the defensive line, especially if they end up losing Greg Hardy in free agency. They have a very talented front seven, but it wouldn't hurt to get another pass-rusher. One prospect that would be an interesting pickup in the sixth round would be Will Clarke of West Virginia.
He finished off his collegiate career with pretty good numbers, tallying six sacks along with 49 tackles and 17 tackles for loss.
Clarke has a nice combination of quickness and strength, making him a potential-filled edge-rusher that could fit into their defensive rotation nicely.
Round 7: Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA
Shaquelle Evans wasn't too consistent in his final year with the UCLA Bruins, but he did manage to reel in 47 passes for 709 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
He has solid size and showed real potential in college, making him worth a flier in the seventh round of the draft. Evans has good size and would make for a solid possession receiver for the Panthers. He competes for the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to work the middle of the field.
If he pans out, Carolina will have some depth in their receiving corps and a new weapon for Newton. If not, they didn't spend more than a seventh-round pick on him, so they wouldn't be losing much.