(Sports Network) - Carolina is probably a little better off than most people think after an uneven 2012 season.
Obviously getting more consistency from ultra-talented quarterback Cam Newton would go a long way in curing many of the Panthers' woes so maximizing his efficiency has to be paramount.
One way Carolina could help Newton is clearing up the question marks on the offensive line. The Panthers had big troubles at right tackle for most of 2012 and also need an heir apparent at left tackle for Jordan Gross, who enters his 11th season in 2013 under a restructured contract which is essentially a one- year deal.
Newton could also use more weapons outside. Veteran Steve Smith is still plenty productive but on the downside and Brandon LaFell is entering a contract year.
On the other side of the ball the Carolina defense has been really weak up the middle for a number of years and has moved on from veteran nose tackle Ron Edwards. Also, three-technique tackle Dwan Edwards was just re-signed but the team would like an upgrade.
The secondary is also an issue for the Panthers, although its been supplemented somewhat by the signing of ex-Raiders safety Mike Mitchell as well as corners D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence in free agency.
Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and Florida State corner Xavier Rhodes are the current favorites to go No. 14 to Carolina, but West Virgina playmaker Tavon Austin and Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro have also been mentioned prominently in Charlotte.
2012 Record: 7-9
Top Needs: OL, DT, DB, WR
First Three Picks: No. 14, No. 44, No. 108
Number of Selections: 5 (1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 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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