2014 NFL Mock Draft: With The Twenty-Eighth Overall Pick Of The 2014 BRB Mock Draft, The Carolina Panthers Select...

He's just waiting for the call. - Streeter Lecka

The Carolina Panthers were a league darling in 2013. What are their needs heading into 2014, and who will they select in the first round of the 2014 Battle Red Blog Mock Draft?

As we creep toward the end of the 2014 BRB Mock Draft, only a handful of the NFL's upper echelon teams have yet to cast their lot. The Carolina Panthers, champions of the NFC South and now Steve Smith's sworn enemy, will make their voices heard. Nashmeister, I hand the microphone to you.

With the 28th pick in the 2014 Battle Red Blog Mock Draft, the Carolina Panthers select Taylor Lewan (OT--Michigan).

Carolina just won the NFC South for the first time since 2008 on the backs of a dynamic young quarterback and a dominant, homegrown front seven. At first glance it may seem that the needle is pointing up for the Panthers. But after evaluating the roster, I find that to be far from the truth.

The Panthers have drafted well in the early rounds recently, bringing in top-end talent like Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Star Lotulelei, and Kawann Short. Where they’ve struggled (much like our Texans) is in filling out the rest of the roster with late round picks. And with big contracts for Newton and recently franchised Greg Hardy on the horizon, they’re not going to be able to fill those holes in free agency.

As I see it, I have three major needs:

Wide Receiver: After cutting Steve Smith, the joke was that Newton needn’t show up for offseason workouts because there wasn’t a single receiver to throw to on the roster. They remedied that slightly in free agency by signing a collection of slot receivers and flat top purveyors like Tiquan Underwood, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant. These aren’t world beaters by any means, but they’re legitimate NFL players who could have some success when coverage breaks down due to Newton’s ability to extend plays. I need somebody who can play anchored to the LOS and beat press coverage, but the receiver crop in this draft is deep enough to put it off until later.

Cornerback: Despite playing behind one of the best front sevens in the league, Carolina corners combined for just seven interceptions and 15 passes defensed last season. Four of those interceptions (and 1,600 snaps) came from Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn, neither of whom is on the team any more. The Panthers may have compensated for lack of talent on the back end in 2013, but I’m not banking on that formula working again in 2014. And Antoine Cason on a one-year "prove it" deal isn’t going to cut it.

Offensive Tackle: And now we arrive at the biggest issue. All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross (PFF’s 3rd-ranked OT in 2013) retired this offseason. Protecting Cam Newton (both physically and psychologically) is a priority. He’s still developing as a passer, and I’m not willing to risk having him lose all confidence in his blindside protection.

Conveniently, there’s a ton of talent available at my two biggest needs. I could improve my CB situation with Jason Verrett or Bradley Roby. But the easy pick here is Michigan OT Taylor Lewan. Considered the third-best OT by most, some have suggested that on talent alone he would have gone ahead of last year’s top two picks, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel. He is (allegedly) a piece of $*&% off the field. I can’t speak to that, however, and he’s too talented to pass up at #28.

Earlier this year, some predicted Lewan would be the first tackle off the board. That luster has worn off a bit, but I tend to agree with Nash; Lewan is too talented for a team in desperate need of offensive line help to pass on here. Your thoughts?

The team that everyone loves to love, the New England Patriots, are on the clock. 37bp, please get me that pick by 7 p.m. CDT this evening.

Draft recap:

1. Houston Texans--Sammy Watkins (WR--Clemson)
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)--Jadeveon Clowney (DE--South Carolina)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars--Johnny Manziel (QB--Texas A&M)
4. Cleveland Browns--Teddy Bridgewater (QB--Louisville)
5. Oakland Raiders--Khalil Mack (LB--Buffalo)
6. Atlanta Falcons--Anthony Barr (LB--UCLA)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Eric Ebron (TE--UNC)
8. Minnesota Vikings--Greg Robinson (OT--Auburn)
9. Buffalo Bills--Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S--Alabama)
10. Detroit Lions--Mike Evans (WR--Texas A&M)
11. Tennessee Titans--Justin Gilbert (CB--Oklahoma State)
12. New York Giants--Aaron Donald (DT--Pittsburgh)
13. St. Louis Rams--Jake Matthews (OT--Texas A&M)
14. Chicago Bears--Timmy Jernigan (DT--Florida State)
15. Denver Broncos (TRADE WITH STEELERS) --C.J. Mosley (LB--Alabama)
16. Dallas Cowboys--Morgan Moses (OT--Virginia)
17. Baltimore Ravens--Marqise Lee (WR--USC)
18. New York Jets--Calvin Pryor (S--Louisville)
19. Miami Dolphins--Zack Martin (OG/OT--Notre Dame)
20. Arizona Cardinals--Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE--Washington)
21. Green Bay Packers--Darqueze Dennard (CB--Michigan State)
22. Philadelphia Eagles--Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR--LSU)
23. Kansas City Chiefs--Brandin Cooks (WR--Oregon State)
24. Cincinnati Bengals--Blake Bortles (QB--UCF)
25. San Diego Chargers--Kyle Fuller (CB--Virginia Tech)
26. Cleveland Browns--Ryan Shazier (LB--Ohio State
27. New Orleans Saints--Louis Nix (DT--Notre Dame)
28. Carolina Panthers--Taylor Lewan (OT--Michigan)

29. New England Patriots--37bp
30. San Francisco 49ers--TexansDC
31. Pittsburgh Steelers (TRADE WITH BRONCOS) --Steel Blue Crew
32. Seattle Seahawks--UprootedTexan
33. Houston Texans--bhsman

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