Ron Rivera: Panthers want quick impact

Pre-draft news conferences are usually pretty dull. That’s largely because most coaches and general managers go out of their way not to provide any clues about what they plan to do in the draft.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney, the dean of NFC South general managers, mastered that art long ago. Second-year coach Ron Rivera followed the same pattern as he and Hurney met with the media Thursday afternoon. They were careful not to say much about specific players or go into detail about areas of need.

But Rivera did have one interesting statement. The Panthers had the No. 1 overall pick last year. They used it on quarterback Cam Newton, who became an immediate starter. The Panthers have the No. 9 pick this year, but they’re not looking to draft a guy who's going to spend a year or two on the bench.

“We're not like where we were last year,’’ Rivera said. “We had the pick of the litter. Now we've got to react to what's happening -- who goes here, who goes there and then we'll decide who fits us best and who's going to help us immediately. We're not taking a guy early to have him develop. We're taking a guy early to put him on the field and have him help us right away. That's what the expectation is.”

If you want to read into that, you might think the Panthers could be leaning toward players like Mississippi defensive tackle Fletcher Cox or Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. Most draft experts say Cox has more polish than the other highly-rated defensive tackles -- Memphis’ Dontari Poe and LSU’s Michael Brockers. Those same experts also say Kuechly is by far the best linebacker in the draft and should be able to make a quick impact in the NFL.