Panthers select former Big 22 Player to Watch, quarterback Will Grier with the 100th overall pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Channel 9 Sports Director Phil Orban will take you inside the NFL Draft live from Nashville. Moments before the first pick, our experts break down the Panthers off-season moves.
Be sure to tune in for the "Panthers Draft Live" on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 9.
FIRST ROUND: 16th pick (2018 regular season: 7-9)
LAST SEASON: The Panthers struggled last season on both sides of the ball as the defense got old and Cam Newton's shoulder issues limited their downfield passing game.
A number of veteran defensive players, including end Julius Peppers, linebacker Thomas Davis and safety Mike Adams, are gone, leaving some major holes to fill. Newton had surgery on his shoulder and the team believes he will recover in time to play in 2019.
FREE AGENCY: Signed center Matt Paradis to replace retiring Ryan Kalil and re-signed offensive tackle Daryl Williams, freeing them to release Ryan's younger brother Matt Kalil, who never lived up to the five-year, $55 million contract he got in 2017. Carolina signed free agent DE Bruce Irvin as a potential short-term replacement for Peppers but still needs pass rushers. Panthers re-signed safety Eric Reid, but they still need to replace Adams.
THEY NEED: DE, OT, S, OLB, TE.
THEY DON'T NEED: C, RB, MLB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell; Alabama OT Jonah Williams; Clemson DE Dexter Lawrence.
OUTLOOK: With so many needs, the Panthers can go any number of directions with the 16th pick. Defensive end is the most pressing issue as the Panthers needed a pass rusher even when Peppers was on the roster.
Irvin is viewed as a stop-gap player, so expect Carolina to address the issue early. And don't rule out drafting a quarterback to be Newton's backup and potential long-term successor given lingering problems with his shoulder.
WHEN: Thursday, starting at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Bank of America Stadium
The Panthers will host fans at Bank of America Stadium on April 25 to watch the first round of the NFL Draft unfold. Gates open at 7 p.m. and fans will be able to check out live coverage of the draft on the PantherVision video boards from the game field.
At this time, the ticket distribution process has ended.
In 2017, the Panthers tabbed versatile running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick, and he’s become one of the NFL’s brightest stars. Last year, Carolina selected wide receiver DJ Moore with the 24th pick, and he emerged as one of the league’s most electric young pass-catchers.
In addition to watching the draft, fans in attendance can get autographs from Panthers legends, tour the Panthers locker room and weight room, and purchase the official Panthers draft hat that will be worn by Carolina’s first-round pick. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a Panthers Draft Party pint-sized LED glow cup. On-field activities also include face painting, balloon artists, cornhole and life-sized yard games. Stadium concessions and beverages will be available to purchase.
PANTHERS SELECTIONS: There will be 254 selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Panthers hold the following selections in this year's draft:
- Round 1: 16 (16 overall)
- Round 2: 15 (47 overall)
- Round 3: 14 (77 overall)
- Round 3: 36 (100 overall)
- Round 4: 13 (115 overall)
- Round 5: 16 (154 overall)
- Round 6: 15 (187 overall)
SELECTION TIME LIMITS:
- Round 1: 10 minutes per selection
- Round 2: Seven minutes per selection
- Rounds 3 through 6: Five minutes per selection
- Round 7: Four minutes per selection
After focusing on upgrading the team's overall speed the past few NFL drafts, don't be surprised if the Carolina Panthers look to add bulk up front this year.
The Panthers have needs at left tackle and defensive end following the retirement of Julius Peppers and the release of Matt Kalil. Carolina struggled to protect quarterback Cam Newton last season while the pass rush fell off - two major reasons Carolina finished 7-9.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney predictably didn't offer many clues to the team's upcoming draft plans, but said he likes what he sees from both positions in this year's class.
"It's a strong group up top and it's a deep group," Hurney said of the defensive linemen available.
Hurney also predicted there will be a handful of offensive linemen who'll be selected in the first round, and said that the group is strong overall.
After Kalil was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury last summer, Carolina brought in journeyman Chris Clark to play left tackle before turning to Marshall Newhouse later in the season. The Panthers re-signed right tackle Daryl Williams this offseason, a move that could potentially mean Taylor Moton will shift to left tackle.
But if someone such as Washington State's Andre Dillard or Florida's Jawaan Taylor falls to No. 16, the Panthers may head in that direction. Carolina hasn't drafted an offensive tackle in the first round since Jeff Otah in 2008.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers signed veteran pass rusher Bruce Irvin to a one-year deal, but he's not viewed as the long-term answer opposite Mario Addison. Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Michigan's Rashan Gary and Florida State's Brian Burns are potential options with the 16th pick that could help fill the void left by Peppers' departure.
"It's a good class of edge rushers," coach Ron Rivera said. "We feel really good about the guys we have seen."
Some things to watch for the Panthers in the NFL draft:
Hurney sounded optimistic about Newton's recovery, saying the 2015 league MVP is gaining more range of motion in his surgically repaired right shoulder. However, Newton hasn't thrown a football yet.
Newton has two years left on his contract, and it's possible the team could start looking for a long-term replacement.
"Our philosophy is you have to develop young quarterbacks," Hurney said.
One potential option outside of the first round is West Virginia's Will Grier, who grew up in Huntersville, North Carolina, - about 20 miles north of where the Panthers play their home games. The Panthers have met extensively with Grier this offseason.
The Panthers re-signed Eric Reid to a big contract earlier this offseason, but the other safety spot remains up in the air after the team parted ways with veteran Mike Adams earlier this offseason.
Rashaan Gaulden, a third-round pick in 2018, and Da'Norris Searcy are potential replacements, but if the Panthers can find a safety with a knack for causing turnovers in the second or third rounds there is a real chance they could fill that need.
Greg Olsen has been a magnificent player for the Panthers, but the three-time 1,000-yard receiver has struggled to stay on the field the past two seasons because of foot injuries. All signs are Olsen will be back for another season, but at some point the team will need to look to replace the 34-year-old tight end.
Carolina drafted Ian Thomas last year with the 101st overall pick and the jury is still out on whether he can develop into Olsen's heir apparent. But don't rule out the team grabbing another tight end at some point during the draft.
No running back in the NFL was on the field more last season than Christian McCaffrey. And while Rivera still believes McCaffrey has a chance to reach 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a season, he'd like to lessen his role just a little bit.
The Panthers have Cameron Artis-Payne coming off the bench, but a back with a similar skillset to McCaffrey - fast, shifty and multi-talented - would be ideal.
This will be new owner David Tepper's first NFL draft since purchasing the Panthers for $2.2 billion last summer, and he's been heavily involved in the team's draft process.
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