Many needs mean wide open draft options for Panthers

Secondary, receiver, offensive line appear most likely targets

Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers returned to the postseason in 2017, but there are still plenty of holes for returning general manager Marty Hurney to fill at this week’s NFL Draft. (Chuck Cook / USA TODAY Sports)

The Carolina Panthers have three main areas of need as they approach this week’s NFL Draft.

The team definitely needs to add help in the secondary. The Panthers traded away starter Darryl Worley, then saw their plans to replace him blow up when free agent signee Bashaud Breeland failed his physical.

In fact, a survey of mock drafts shows that cornerback is the most popular choice for the Panthers in Round 1, followed by safety.

Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, a North Carolina native who visited the team during the draft interview process, is a popular choice, as is former Tar Heel corner Mike Hughes. Carolina brought in Hughes and also visited his pro day.

At safety, Stanford’s Justin Reid and Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates appear to be high on the team’s board, although Bates would likely be a choice in a later round.

Florida State safety Derwin James also popped up as a mock draft first-rounder for Carolina. The Panthers brought in Florida’s Duke Dawson and LSU’s Donte Jackson for interviews and visited Vanderbilt’s Tre Herndon, Iowa’s Josh Jackson, Stanford’s Quenton Meeks and Georgia State’s Chandon Sullivan at pro days, showing that corner is a top priority.

Next on the wish list is a wide receiver. The Panthers still haven’t replaced Kelvin Benjamin, who was traded early in the season last year. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is the most popular mock choice in the first round. Carolina brought him in and also went to his pro day.

Maryland’s D.J. Moore is also a strong possibility. The Panthers brought him in and also had a private workout with Moore.

Other receivers the team brought in were Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Memphis’ Anthony Miller. Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton also got attention on the pro day and all-star game circuit.

The third area of need for the Panthers is on the offensive line. Carolina already needed to add depth up front, then lost Andrew Norwell in free agency.

The mock draft authors seem to have more interest in drafting a lineman early than the Panthers’ predraft activity has indicated. Names mentioned as possible picks by the experts include Arkansas lineman Frank Ragnow, UTEP guard Will Hernandez and Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn.

Iowa center James Daniels was the only first-round caliber lineman the team brought in, however. The Panthers also interviewed Auburn guard Braden Smith, a likely second- or third-rounder. NC State’s Tony Adams had a private workout, and the team talked to A&T’s Brandon Parker and South Carolina’s Alan Knott.

The team’s current spot in the first round might make it tough to add a pass rusher, another area of need, but the Panthers are definitely evaluating the possibility of devoting a draft pick or two to that area. Miami’s Chad Thomas was brought in for an interview, as was Wake’s Duke Ejiofor. The team also looked at Ohio State’s Jayln Holmes and NC State’s Kentavius Street at pro days, and FSU’s Josh Sweat at the Combine.

The need isn’t as glaring, but the team is also looking at tight end options, with South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst high on the list.