What will the Carolina Panthers do in the 2014 NFL draft? Keep track of all the predictions made in our mock drafts leading up to Round 1 on May 8.
Round 1, pick 28: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
We said: Losing Jordan Gross to retirement will be a big blow to Carolina’s offense, as the big man clearly still had a lot left in the tank. Kouandjio, who is surprisingly nimble for a 6-7, 322-pound player, could fill that left tackle spot nicely over time. He won’t set any land speed records (he ran a 5.59 40 at the combine), but he’s quicker than that on tape, and he covers everything well — from mauling run-blocking to estimable pass protection.
Round 1, pick 28: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
We said: The Panthers are in dire need of an offensive tackle or two on the heels of Jordan Gross’ decision to retire. Expect them to dip into free agency with aggressiveness, which would free them up to seek out a buddy for Cam Newton in the passing game. Cooks may have locked himself into Round 1 with his combine — his 4.33 40 blew away the field.
Round 2, pick 60: Brandon Thomas, G/T, Clemson
We said: At pick 60, Carolina takes a step toward rebuilding its Jordan Gross-less line.
Round 1, pick 28: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
We said: A first-round receiver wouldn't surprise anyone, but this draft is loaded at that position, and the Panthers would be better served to address their shallow depth at cornerback. Carolina's defensive front seven did all the heavy lifting in 2013, and an upgrade in the secondary is the key to the Panthers slugging it out with the NFC heavyweights in Seattle and San Francisco. Roberson, Roby and Purifoy should all be in the mix, but we're giving the nod to Roberson based on his speed and natural athleticism in coverage.
Round 1, pick 28: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
We said: The Panthers may very well have the NFL’s most dangerous front seven, and though their secondary improved as the 2013 season went on, a little star power wouldn’t hurt. Pryor is a big hitter in the front half of the defense, but he also can cover slots and seams.
Round 1, pick 30: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
We said: The Panthers have to find a wide receiver at some point in this draft. With a number of talented WRs already gone, however, they’d be better served to wait on a deep group than reach for one here. Instead, they can continue to bulk up in the secondary, with their choice at this point between Gilbert and boom-or-bust prospect Bradley Roby.
Round 1, pick 29: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
We said: Not nearly enough attention has been paid yet to the second tier of receivers in this class — guys like Matthews, Jared Abbrederis, Tevin Reese or Jeremy Gallon who are destined to be productive pros. Matthews may not burn a lot of defenses deep, but he’s an ultra-reliable receiver at all areas of the field. He could complement Steve Smith now, then take over for him down the line.
Round 1, pick 9: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
We said: The NFC South is no place to have so many lingering question marks in the secondary. Roby remains the top cornerback prospect in the 2014 class (though Jason Verrett’s right there), so this is a natural one for the Panthers.
Round 1, pick 16: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
We said: Taking a stab at the WR spot here. Matthews, 6-3 and 205 pounds, flirted with the 2013 draft following a 94-catch year. He opted to return to Vandy for his senior year, which should help him polish up his game. He’s not a burner but, like a Keenan Allen, exploits weaknesses in defenses.