Kiper Mock Draft 1.0: Carolina Panthers


The Carolina Panthers have the 28th pick of the 2014 NFL draft, and Sunday's 23-10 loss to San Francisco in the NFC divisional playoffs made it obvious which way they need to go.

Wide receiver.

If Cam Newton is going to be your franchise quarterback, which coach Ron Rivera says he is, you must surround him with better weapons. Outside of Steve Smith -- who, after 13 seasons, is nearing the end of his stellar career -- an upgrade is needed there.

Brandon LaFell showed in the final weeks of the regular season and in the playoff game that he is not worthy of the No. 2 receiver spot and certainly is not ready to move into the top spot if Smith gets hurt again. His contract is up, and he didn't seem certain Sunday that he would be back.

No. 3 receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has proved to be a nice addition, but again, he's a role player.

Fortunately for the Panthers, this is a deep year for receivers. They likely won't get a shot at Texas A&M's Mike Evans, Clemson's Sammy Watkins or Southern California's Marqise Lee, but players such as Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin could be sitting there.

It wouldn't surprise me, though, if Carolina went with an offensive tackle. Left tackle Jordan Gross is unsigned and unsure whether he wants to return for a 12th season.

And general manager Dave Gettleman proved in his first go-round last season that he likes to build from the inside out, selecting defensive tackles with his first two picks. That turned out nicely, as Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short played a huge role in the team's rise to No. 2 in the league in defense.

Check out Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 to see which players he thinks the Panthers should target with their first pick.