Mel Kiper Jr. still has Panthers drafting a tackle, but not the same one


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- First it was Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat. Then it was Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings.

Now it is Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries.

Notice a trend?

In his latest mock draftInsider, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Carolina Panthers selecting the 6-foot-5, 307-pound Humphries with the 25th pick.

Kiper, based on his three mock drafts, is convinced the Panthers will select a tackle. That definitely is the team’s top need after deciding not to re-sign free agent Byron Bell, who started at left tackle last season.

Much depends on what happens in free agency. If the Panthers sign a player who could fill Bell’s void, they might opt for a wide receiver or possibly defensive tackle at No. 25. The problem is there aren’t a lot of strong tackle candidates in free agency.

Carolina might go ahead and draft an offensive tackle regardless of what happens in free agency if the right one is there. Finding a player that can protect quarterback Cam Newton is important.

Kiper likes Humphries because he faced many of the country’s best pass-rushers in the SEC.