Panthers keeping options open when it comes to 59th pick
Written by Steve Reed
Tuesday, 21 April 2009 13:21
CHARLOTTE – Even if Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney wanted to, he couldn’t tell you who the team is going to select in next weekend’s NFL draft.
With the 59th overall pick, there’s really know way of knowing who’ll still be there.
Not that he hasn't tried to figure that out, of course.
“It’s harder to figure out who might be available at that pick,” admitted Hurney. “When you go into the draft we try to cover every scenario so you try to stack the board from top to bottom.
“You always prepare the same way, but where it gets difficult is where you try to figure out what players might be available at 59. You let things play out. But one of the keys going into the draft is you try to flexible and open-minded so you prepare for every scenario.”
One scenario everyone will be watching in the next week is what the Panthers do with defensive end Julius Peppers.
If they trade their franchise player, it’s likely he’d bring at least a first-round draft pick in return. But there's certainly no guarantee that will happen for a variety of reasons.
Still, that hasn’t prevented the Panthers from covering their bases and interviewing a number of first-round prospects in the last few weeks.
A year ago at this time Hurney had no idea the Panthers would have two picks in the first round.
But moments after selecting running back Jonathan Stewart from Oregon with the 13th overall pick, he was on the phone to teams with picks in the teens looking to strike a deal to move back into the first round to land an offensive tackle – in particular Pitt’s Jeff Otah. The Panthers managed to do just that, trading with Philadelphia and moving up from No. 43 to 19 to land the big man.
“This time last year before the draft I couldn’t have told you that we were going to have two first-rounders,” Hurney said. “But I think you are always looking to do things in the draft. That is part of the fun of it and the challenge of it. And you are looking at ways to make yourself better. There are some years you don’t move at all. There are other years you move more. It goes along with being open-minded and flexible.”
That’s also why Hurney refused to get pigeon-holed into saying this would be a “defensive” draft, the opposite of 2008 when the focus was clearly on offense.
“Probably our greatest loss, as far as through departures in the offseason, was the depth of our offensive line,” Hurney said, referring to the loss of Geoff Hangartner and Frank Omiyale and the release of Jeremy Bridges.
“We did release (cornerback) Ken Lucas, who was a starter, but we've always felt like Richard Marshall had the ability to start and really kind of regarded him as a starter. He was a second round pick. Again, you look at it like we have every other draft -- you go in and try to get good players. Whether it's offense or defense, you try to get the best players there. We have had success doing that if recent years and it pays off taking that approach.”
The Panthers have five picks in seven rounds.
They don’t have a pick in the first and last rounds, surrendering the first to the Eagles in the Otah trade and the other last summer to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for backup quarterback Josh McCown.
The Panthers have no pressing needs in the starting lineup with 21 of 22 starters returning from last season. But clearly there is a need to upgrade their depth on both lines. And if Peppers is traded that will create a huge hole at defensive end.
“We want to keep our offensive and defensive lines strong,” Hurney said. “I think that’s part of our philosophy.”