NFC South: Everrette Brown
With Andrew Luck staying in college and Cam Newton, who hasn’t declared if he’ll enter the draft, falling on Kiper’s board, the top two players are defensive linemen. Kiper has Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley at No. 1 and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers at No. 2.
The Panthers might give Bowers a few extra points because he’s a local kid and that sometimes has been an important factor to owner Jerry Richardson in the past. But, with the emergence of Charles Johnson this season, I don’t think the need is as great at defensive end as it is at some other positions. The Panthers also have ends Everette Brown and Greg Hardy, who have plenty of potential.
Defensive tackle has been a problem spot for the Panthers ever since they lost Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu. There might be some temptation to go with an offensive player because the Panthers have made it clear they intend to improve their offense.
But the only offensive player in Kiper’s top five is Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. When new coach Ron Rivera was introduced to the media Tuesday, he made it a point to talk about how he likes Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, who each showed some promise as rookies. The Panthers also have veteran Steve Smith. If Smith decides he wants out, the Panthers would trade him and that would create a need for a No. 1 receiver. That’s the only scenario where I see the Panthers going for Green.
That’s still a long shot. Receivers usually aren’t taken as the No. 1 overall pick and Carolina’s history with drafting receivers shows that they often take time to develop, if they develop at all.
With the rest of the talent Carolina already has in place adding Fairley could make the defense a solid unit. It might be wise to make that happen first and spend the rest of the draft and free agency working on the offense.
As often happens when we do our team-by-team mailbags, you have a bunch of follow-up questions and some other questions that we didn't touch on. In the few hours since I posted the mailbags, there are more than 100 new questions.
That's why I decided to do a quick, bonus edition of the mailbags. We'll start Round 2 with the Carolina Panthers.
Easy in Sumter writes: Pat, you opined that Trgovac was a good Defensive Coach, which I won't disagree with, and that Fox will remain a major part of the defensive play-calling. Since that Arizona loss I have read many opinions that Carolina's reluctance to rush the QB and allowing Fitzgerald dictate the coverage was a MAJOR factor in that loss. Straight up - was Fox responsible for those 2 calls, and did it play a large part in Trgo and other members of the Panthers' defensive coaches walking out on him and a 12-4 Panthers team?
Pat Yasinskas: I definitely think the mass exodus by Carolina's defensive staff had something to do with John Fox being very hands-on when it comes to the defense. He's always been that way and always will be that way. Not saying there's anything wrong with that. Fox is a good defensive mind, but sometimes you can make your assistants feel irrelevant by stepping on their toes. None of those coaches were fired. They all left voluntarily, so it makes you wonder.
Daryl in Alberta writes: Pat, just read your Panthers mailbag and it's Peppers, Peppers and more Peppers. So what about the guy they drafted last weekend that would be his likely replacment if Peppers is gone: Everette Brown? What do you think of him and his chances to make an impact this year?
Pat Yasinskas: Well, Julius Peppers is the story of the offseason for the Panthers. No matter how old that may become to you or me, it's still a story and I've got to address it. But Everette Brown is going to play a role right away, no matter if Peppers is there or if he's gone. Brown might be a bit of a situational pass-rusher to start with, but the Panthers believe he can become an every-down player. That's part of the reason they gave up next year's first-round pick to get him.
Chris in Chapel Hill writes: What is this I hear about peppers to the 49ers?? Is that a legitimate possibility??
Pat Yasinskas: That rumor is out there. But there've been a lot of rumors about Peppers that haven't played out. I'll continue to keep my ears open, but I can't say it's anything more than a rumor at this point.