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NFL Draft: Panthers have options

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó Marty Hurney is jittery by nature, so it’s difficult to gauge the level of nervousness as he prepares to lead the Carolina Panthers in this weekend’s crucial NFL draft.
“My family will tell you I get a little edgy at times, but that’s not just before the draft,” the general manager said earlier this week. “It’s an important day. It’s an important weekend every year for your organization.”
After missing the playoffs for two straight years and with several important holes to fill, there’s pressure on Hurney and coach John Fox as they make 10 selections in the seven-round draft on Saturday and Sunday.
While the Panthers have obvious needs at defensive end, running back and offensive tackle, Hurney and Fox have been tightlipped about their plans for Saturday with the 13th overall pick.
“You just don’t know because it depends who’s there,” Hurney said. “It’s just impossible to say right now. Two weeks ago, everybody thinks that you know who you’re going to take, but you really don’t.”
There are three schools of thought with what Carolina will do in the first round:
– Grab speedy Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey to pair with Julius Peppers and fill a giant hole following the retirement of seven-year starter Mike Rucker.
– Go the running back route, perhaps with Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart or Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois. After they released last year’s starter, DeShaun Foster, they need someone to pair with DeAngelo Williams in the backfield.
– Boost the offensive line with a tackle such as Ryan Clady of Boise State or Pittsburgh’s Jeff Otah. Then they could move Travelle Wharton from tackle to guard.
But the answer may be none of the above. Hurney has talked highly of Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, and there is uncertainty at the position with Jake Delhomme recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery.
Getting Ryan would likely mean the Panthers would have to make a trade to move up in the draft. But it would go against Carolina’s philosophy of not wanting to wait to develop young QBs.
Hurney and Fox do have a history of trading down. They did it last year, moving from 14th to 25th, and came out with a gem in linebacker Jon Beason, who led the team in tackles in 2007.
“That’s what makes it fun,” Hurney said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen and there are so many scenarios that could happen.”
While the focus will be on the first-round pick, the Panthers need to reverse a trend of gaffes in the later rounds.
Bringing up the 2005 draft brings winces inside the team offices. All but one pick ó Thomas Davis ó turned out to be a dud.

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