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Carolina Panthers 2014 Draft Preview

( - The Carolina Panthers are coming off a brilliant 12-4 season, spearheaded by the playmaking ability of quarterback Cam Newton as well as an impressive front seven on defense led by all-world middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

There are clouds on the horizon, though, with definitive holes in the Tar Heel State. The most notable problems are at wide receiver after the departures of veterans Steve Smith and Ted Ginn, and along the offensive line after the retirement of longtime left tackle Jordan Gross. On the other side of the ball, the defensive backfield needs help after the Panthers lost underrated free safety Mike Mitchell and playmaking slot cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

The receiving corps wasn't exactly dynamic with Smith and Ginn and is now headlined by the pedestrian pair of Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant so you can bet Newton will be in second-year GM David Gettleman's ear to get him some help outside the numbers.

That's the most likely scenario because Carolina's first pick is deep in the draft at No. 28 overall and the WR position is among the beefiest in this year's process. You have to figure in a group which includes players like Odell Beckham of LSU, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks as well as lengthy Florida State prospect Kelvin Benjamin and USC standout Marqise Lee, one might fall to the Panthers.

If not keep an eye on fast-rising Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses as well as cornerbacks like TCU's Jason Verrett and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller.

2013 Record: 12-4

Top Needs: WR, OL, DB

First Three Picks: No. 28, No. 60, No. 92

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

CALLING THE SHOTS: Gettleman spent three decades with various organizations before getting his first chance to headline in Charlotte. He had an impressive first go-around by drafting impressive defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 - Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah); 2012 - Luke Kuechly (MLB, Boston College); 2011 - Cam Newton (QB, Auburn); 2010 - none; 2009 - none; 2008 - Jonathan Stewart (RB, Oregon), Jeff Otah (OT, Pittsburgh); 2007 - Jon Beason (LB, Miami- Florida); 2006 - DeAngelo Williams (RB, Memphis); 2005 - Thomas Davis (S/LB, Georgia); 2004 - Chris Gamble (CB, Ohio State); 2003 - Jordan Gross (OT, Utah); 2002 - Julius Peppers (DE, North Carolina).

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