CHARLOTTE — Most draft analysts agree: The Carolina Panthers should take a defensive tackle with their first pick at No. 14 in the 2013 NFL draft.
In a draft full of top-tier linemen, Carolina can find a quality player at that position.
Carolina returns its three sack leaders from last season, including defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, who had six. But the void left by veteran Ron Edwards’ departure could be filled when the Panthers are called.
“I think defensive tackle is such a pressing need for (coach Ron) Rivera and company,” ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I think Ron looks at (Missouri defensive tackle) Sheldon Richardson. I think he would be an ideal fit.”
Richardson, a 6-foot-3, 294-pounder, runs a 4.96 40-yard dash and had four sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss as a junior last season.
Kiper said another possibility, if Richardson is gone, would be North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams.
“If you do take the defensive tackle in the first, you could look at a safety like D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina, (or) Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse in the second round,” Kiper said. “I think getting a safety and defensive tackle in the first two rounds, if they do that, they’re off to the races.”
Here is what other draft analysts have to say about the Panthers’ pick at No. 14:
ANALYST: Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
PICK: Utah DT Star Lotulelei
“The interior of the Panthers’ defensive line has been a question mark since Kris Jenkins left in 2007, and Carolina hasn’t invested a top-50 draft pick on a defensive tackle since Jenkins over a decade ago. Lotulelei has enough talent to be a top-five pick, but his heart issue could cause him to slip a bit.”
ANALYST: Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com
PICK: Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes
“The Panthers asked their corners to play a lot of off man and zone coverage last year, giving up a large amount of cushion. That is not Rhodes’ game, but I will chalk up last year’s scheme to poor talent at the position.”
ANALYST: Nate Davis, USA Today Sports
PICK: Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson
“Ron Rivera has acknowledged the need to find a successor for WR Steve Smith, who will be 34 this season. Patterson is a bit of a project but offers superior size (6-2, 216 pounds) and explosion. And he can apprentice behind Brandon LaFell and Smith, provided he earns No. 89’s respect.”
ANALYST: Russ Lande, National Football Post
PICK: North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams
“Despite not receiving much national attention, Williams is very high on many draft boards and would be a great choice by the Panthers. With his initial quickness, strength and excellent competitiveness, Williams would provide an immediate upgrade on the interior of the Panthers defensive line.”