<
>

Looking ahead to Carolina's draft

3/28/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I just did an interview with ESPNEWS in which we talked about the upcoming draft for Carolina.

The segment will air several times Saturday afternoon and we'll talk about the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon.

Carolina's in the most unique position of all the NFC South teams because the Panthers don't hold a first-round pick. That was traded away last year to draft tackle Jeff Otah. You can't question that move because Otah had a very nice rookie season and should only get better.

But the Panthers will have to wait until 59th overall to draft a player (here's the complete list of Carolina's picks), assuming things stay as they are. Nobody knows exactly how things will play out with defensive end Julius Peppers. The Panthers could end up with a first-round pick if they trade Peppers, but that may or may not happen.

For now, we have to assume the Panthers are staying put. This team has some needs on the defensive line and also could use some depth at wide receiver and cornerback. No matter what happens with the Peppers situation, my guess is that Carolina will focus on the defensive line.

That's always been the strength of a John Fox football team, and the Panthers have to rebuild up front. With or without Peppers, I think the Panthers go with a defensive end at this pick. The two guys I like that might be available are Utah's Paul Kruger and Cincinnati's Connor Barwin.

For the moment, I'm going to project Kruger as the pick. Just a hunch, but Carolina has had good luck with guys from Utah (Steve Smith and Jordan Gross) and general manager Marty Hurney can be a little superstitious.

If you want to go outside the box and say there's no defensive lineman the Panthers like at No. 59, here's a hunch: How about Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie? Carolina's got Smith and Muhsin Muhammad as the starters and Dwayne Jarrett as the backup. Muhammad's not getting any younger. Jarrett finally showed some promise near the end of last season and the Panthers are hoping he can have a breakout year. But there are no guarantees on Jarrett. Robiskie is a very polished receiver and could be ready to contribute right away.