Carolina Panthers 2010 record: 2-14, fourth place NFC South
2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 1 (1); 65 (3); 97 (3); 98 (4); 132 (5); 166 (6); 203 (7); 244 (7)
Quarterback: The Panthers finished last passing in 2010, so it doesn't take much to figure out their biggest need this offseason. In fact, even new coach Ron Rivera has come out and said his team's biggest goal is finding a franchise quarterback.
Defensive tackle: The Panthers have an equally pressing need on the other side of the ball at defensive tackle entering this year's NFL draft. Last year, the Panthers rotated Derek Landri, Nick Hayden and Ed Johnson in at the defensive tackle spots. All three might be considered decent role players, but none are exceptional and might not start for many other teams around the league.
Wide receiver: Yes, the Panthers drafted three wide receivers last year, including two in the third round in Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards and one in the sixth in David Gettis. But if the team decides to trade unhappy veteran Steve Smith, which is a possibility, they will need to replenish this position with a top-end talent.
Cornerback: Richard Marshall has said he doesn't think he'll be back and fellow starter Chris Gamble (who is owed $6 million) is coming off a poor season in which he was benched.
First-round focus 1st overall -- The Carolina Panthers are widely expected to select quarterback Cam Newton with the top overall pick, but some believe the team is struggling to come to grips with the thought of investing the first pick on a player with only one season of starting experience at the BCS level. It is easy to understand why the Panthers might be tempted by some of the other players in this draft class. Alabama defensive Marcell Dareus, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green also play positions of need and are widely viewed as considerably safer prospects. North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn could prove a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher -- something the Panthers could use considering their loss last year of free agent Julius Peppers -- and would be a popular selection given his close regional ties, as well. Ultimately, however, the way to improve in the NFL is to improve at the quarterback position. Considering the relative talent of the other quarterbacks in the NFC South division (Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay), the only way for the Carolina Panthers to realistically get back into contention for the divisional crown, they need improved play at quarterback. Newton is a gamble, but his 51 touchdowns against SEC competition and poise both on and off the field in driving Auburn to the BCS Championship, is the stuff of legend. At this point, it would be an upset if Carolina selected anyone other than Newton with the first pick -- though with no second round selection and holes throughout the roster, they'll be working the phones to the last second in an effort to trade down.
Five names on Panthers' board:
QB Cam Newton, Auburn
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina