CHARLOTTE – While other NFL teams are in search of quarterbacks and running backs, new Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman said the Panthers wouldn’t mind walking away from the NFL draft with big offensive and defensive linemen.
Gettleman has worked in the NFL for more than a quarter century and to him “hog mollies” – a term of affection he uses for offensive and defensive linemen – are areas of need.
“You’ve heard me, it’s on record: Big men allow you to compete,” Gettleman said.
The Panthers must find a replacement for veteran left tackle Jordan Gross, whose contract voids after the season, and a defensive tackle to replace Ron Edwards. They could also use a defensive end.
There’s no denying the influence working the past 15 seasons in the personnel department of the New York Giants has had on Gettleman, a firm believer that the best way to build a team is from the inside out.
The Giants relied on aggressive defensive ends to help take Tom Brady out of his rhythm and beat the New England Patriots in two Super Bowls.
“We have an interest in those big guys,” said Getteman, who joined the Panthers in January. “Those big guys are line-of-scrimmage changers. They’re big for the team.”
Gettleman believes that offensive and defensive line are the two deepest positions in the draft.
“Let’s just say I’m not angry about that,” Gettleman grinned.
However, Gettleman’s resources are limited.
He has only has five draft picks at his disposal, including the 14th selection overall. The Panthers last year traded away their third- and seventh-round picks.
While Gettleman will have final say over all draft day decisions, he said he’ll rely heavily on his scouting staff and his coaches for input.
And with good reason.
Gettleman admits he’s a novice when it comes to evaluating college personnel and his knowledge of running a draft.
With the Giants, all of his work came on the pro personnel side, which included analyzing NFL free agents. Occasionally he’d get asked advice on a college player, but those instances were few and far between.
“As a pro guy basically I was in the war room on draft handling the trade phone,” Gettleman said of his time with the Giants. “That was basically it.”
But in the end he doesn’t think evaluating NFL talent is much different than assessing college talent.
“I’d like to think in my 28 years in the league I have a pretty good idea of who can play,” Gettleman said.
Still, he’ll lean upon the men he’s come to know in the past three months for added input.
“The best thing I can do is listen,” Gettleman said. “What the draft is all about, it’s not about who’s right it’s about getting the guy right. He’s not my guy he’s our guy. And that’s the biggest thing I do.”
The Panthers did well under former GM Marty Hurney when it came to choosing first-round draft picks.
That group includes Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton, the AP Defensive and Offensive Rookies of the Year the last two seasons, respectively. They also hit home runs with Gross, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.
The problem has often been bad trades and poor selections in the middle rounds for the Panthers.
Hurney once traded a future first-round pick to get Florida State defensive end Everette Brown in the second round. Brown fizzled out after two seasons and was released.
He also traded the first pick in the second round to take Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards, who has been flop as a receiver for Carolina the last three seasons.
Gettleman hopes the Panthers can improve on that.
He said ideally he’d like to come out of this year’s draft with immediate starters with the first two picks and contributors in rounds four, five and six.
Along with hog mollies, the Panthers could also use a long-term replacement for receiver Steve Smith, who turns 34 next month, as well as help in the secondary.
As for the 14th overall pick, Gettleman doesn’t see the Panthers trading up because of their shortage of draft picks and the fact that he won’t “talk myself out of taking a good player.”
If the Panthers go defensive tackle with their first pick then Utah’s Star Lotulelei, or Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson are options.
The top three tackles -- Texas’ Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson -- are also expected to be taken well before the Panthers are on the clock. However, Alabama’s D.J. Fluker could still be around.
It’s also possible Gettleman could try to make a popular fan pick and go after a receiver. If he goes that route, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson and Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins are also possible options.
“There are a lot of guys that that can play,” Gettleman said.