CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Five takeaways from Tuesday’s pre-NFL draft news conference with Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera:
All options open: There was nothing to indicate what direction the Panthers are leaning with the No. 24 pick. Hurney and Rivera insisted what they’ve done in free agency has put Carolina in position to take the best player available rather than reach for need. They both insisted they like the depth at all positions, although you have to take that somewhat with a grain of salt. There is no proven backup to tight end Greg Olsen, and the safety position has to be addressed with strong safety Mike Adams, 37, in the last year of his deal and Da'Norris Searcy coming off a season in which he lost the starting job at Tennessee. Hurney did say that other than quarterback there are players in every position group that can help Carolina immediately.
Trade possibility: Hurney didn’t rule out trading up or down in the first round, saying he knows there will be calls from other teams. Hurney made 13 trades in the draft from 2002 to 2012, his first go-around as Carolina’s GM. In 2008 he traded his first-round pick in 2009 to Philadelphia so he could get tackle Jeff Otah with the No. 19 pick. The following draft he traded his first-round pick in 2010. Don’t bank on any future first-rounders being dealt this time around. “I can tell you right now I don’t think we’re going to be trading next year’s first," Hurney said with a smile. If the Panthers trade up they have an extra third-round pick to package in a deal. A trade up seems more likely than a trade down.
Change of philosophy? This will be Hurney’s first draft since 2012, and he admits the five years off detached gave him a different perspective and perhaps taught him the importance of being patient, waiting for the draft to come to him. In other words, be patient. But his overall philosophy hasn’t changed, meaning he wants in the first three rounds to get players that can impact the roster immediately. That’s particularly true in the first round, where he basically hasn’t missed in previous drafts.
Draft a quarterback? Hurney said he’s still talking with Derek Anderson, Cam Newton's backup since Newton was the top overall pick in 2011, and hasn’t ruled out re-signing Anderson. He also agrees with the philosophy of former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf that you draft a quarterback in the later rounds every year with the hope one can develop into a future replacement for the starter, or at least become the backup. So look for Hurney to use a late-round pick on a quarterback.
Corner the market: Hurney would like to add parts to the secondary, whether that’s at cornerback or safety or both. Whether he would use a first-round pick there remains unclear. That might be a situation where a trade up would be necessary to get the right player. Hurney and Rivera seem pleased with the acquisition of Ross Cockrell in free agency to battle for a starting spot opposite James Bradberry. Captain Munnerlyn and Corn Elder, who spent last year on injured reserve after being selected with the 152nd overall pick, also will factor in. But they have been slotted more as nickel-type backs.