- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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A closer look at the areas the Carolina Panthers could address in the draft. Friday we’ll look at the outside linebackers and safeties, who are scheduled to work out on Monday in Indianapolis.
Position of need: The secondary showed improvement last season when speed was added in rookie free safety Tre Boston. Strong safety Roman Harper provided valuable veteran leadership, but there still is a need for more speed there. Harper is 32 and entering the last year of his contract, so the Panthers have to look toward the future. Outside linebacker also is a need in building for the future, with Thomas Davis turning 32 in March. Another playmaker in a system that thrives on its linebackers making tackles would be a plus.
Three players the Panthers could target in the draft:
Landon Collins (S), Alabama: Collins is the only safety likely to go in the first round and definitely worth a look, particularly for a team built around a defense that begins with stopping the run. He’s a big, physical player who can cover, but his strength is making plays at the line of scrimmage. He comes from a college program that has him ready to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Collins is potentially a starter for years to come.
Vic Beasley (OLB), Clemson: He was a pass-rushing fiend at end in college, but his size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and speed make him a well-rounded outside linebacker candidate in the NFL. Beasley is perhaps better suited to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme rather than Carolina’s 4-3 scheme. But there’s no question about his athletic ability and playmaking ability.
Shaq Thompson (OLB/S), Washington: He took snaps at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and safety in college. At 6-1, 228 he is built more like Thomas Davis, who was a safety at Georgia. Thompson also has a nose for the ball like Davis. He has a diversity few in this draft can match. He’s a playmaker, forcing three fumbles and scoring four defensive touchdowns this past season. Thompson is also strong on special teams, an area Carolina wants to upgrade.