I love the draft.  I really do.  Along with the Super Bowl, first week of the regular season, last 16 weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, it’s my favorite event in the NFL.  Leading up to the draft, I’ll be writing draft previews for each team.  As the draft draws closer and we know more about who will be available and all that, I’ll revist each team.  But for now, we’ll look at each team, their needs and what they might do.  First up: The Carolina Panthers.

Needs: You don’t pick first overall without having a whole lot of needs.  The Panthers have significantly less needs than most #1 overall teams in recent memory, however.  They have a halfway decent defense, a fantastic WR in Steve Smith and two great running backs, although Williams is most likely gone this offseason.  They are in severe need of a franchise QB and a true team leader to pull the team together in the wake of a dreadful season.  A bona-fide pass rusher is needed after the departure of Julius Peppers as well.  Oh, and their entire offensive line.  And they have no second round pick, as it was traded away last year.

What they should do: Depending on what happens with the CBA, I would look for them to try to move this pick.  They’ll have trouble either way, for the same reason they want to trade it: Andrew Luck.  But they desperately need picks later in the first round or early in the second, and they without a sure-fire franchise QB at the top of the draft, if they can trade down and still grab Locker (who I expect to climb back up draft boards), Newton, Moore or another QB as well as a second first rounder, they should be very, very happy.

What they will do: There are three factors that will determine this, and they will all get a lot of attention over the next few months: Their next coach, prospect workouts and the CBA, particularly the rookie wage scale.  If there is a wage scale, I expect a scenario much like what I described above to take place.  If not, they are probably stuck with the pick.  At #1 overall, I see them grabbing Auburn’s Fairly or Clemson’s Bowers.  They could also move down in the 4-10 range if someone was dead set on AJ Green, of Georgia.  Most likely as of right now?  I say they keep the pick, and Nick Fairly goes #1 overall.

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