Scott Fowler

Don’t panic: 4 NFL draft predictions for the Carolina Panthers

Even in 2010, when he was a high school junior at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek and this picture was taken, D.J. Humphries stood out. Now he is a contender to be picked by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Even in 2010, when he was a high school junior at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek and this picture was taken, D.J. Humphries stood out. Now he is a contender to be picked by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers have done all their preliminary work on the 2015 NFL draft. Now, like NFL fans, about all they can do is wait.

The way general manager Dave Gettleman describes these last few hours sounds a lot like the way anxious fathers pace at the hospital, awaiting the birth of a baby.

As Gettleman said Tuesday: “You can’t panic. You’ve got to relax. It’s going to happen.”

As we while away the moments before this three-day miniseries gets started Thursday at 8 p.m., though, I will offer four predictions for what the Panthers will do in the 2015 draft. As Gettleman said Tuesday, all drafts are just “educated guessing.” So let’s do some:

1. Gettleman makes two trades – but stays at No. 25 for the top pick.

It sounds to me like Gettleman has no intention of moving up in the draft because, as he said, he doesn’t subscribe to the theory that the Panthers are “one player away” from greatness and believes that to move up substantially the Panthers would have to give up a second-round draft choice, which is too high a price.

But I think with two extra compensatory picks already in his pocket (those two cannot be traded), the GM’s temptation to deal some of his other picks in the later rounds will prove too strong to resist.

2. The Panthers pick a running back – but not with their first choice.

Where Gettleman has most differed from previous general manager Marty Hurney so far is his ability to hit more often on later-round picks (both men did well with first-round picks).

Kawann Short, Kony Ealy, Bené Benwikere, Trai Turner and Tre Boston all fill key roles on the current Panthers. Gettleman added them all in the second round or later in the 2013 and ’14 drafts, and I think he will try to draft a running back on the second or third day to get the same sort of result.

The Panthers are not sold on the idea that Jonathan Stewart’s every-down backup is on the current roster, and Gettleman calls the running back group “a very deep position.” My colleague Tom Sorensen believes Carolina will and should pick Melvin Gordon with its first pick at No. 25 – I don’t think it will fall that way, but believe the Panthers will choose a running back at some point. Todd Gurley would be the dream choice for me, but I think the Georgia back from Tarboro will be long gone.

3. Carolina picks yet another defensive lineman within the first three rounds.

Of Gettleman’s five picks in the top three rounds over his first two drafts with the Panthers, three have been defensive linemen. Other than quarterback, I think this is the position he values the most highly. Plus, Charles Johnson is on the backside of his career, and Greg Hardy is having verbal altercations in Dallas. A defensive end makes the most sense.

4. With their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers select ...

Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries. He’s from Charlotte – although that won’t matter a bit to Gettleman when he decides whether to do this – and Humphries can play left tackle.

Gettleman isn’t going to reach if the “four or five” tackles he believes can play on the left side are all gone by No. 25, he said, but I am guessing Humphries will be there.

“I got killed last year ’cause I didn’t take a tackle at all, and maybe it’s my old stubborn streak, but I’m not reaching for a player,” Gettleman said. “I’m not doing it.”

With Humphries there, he won’t have to.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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