No one can argue with the fact that the Carolina Panthers were able to draft and find guys that were able to contribute as first-year players last year. Obviously, it’s quarterback Cam Newton that everyone will first point to, but as coach Ron Rivera points out in the following interview, the list is long.
Carolina hopes it can do the same thing again in 2012. The question is exactly where they’ll try to find that immediate impact player in the first round. The Panthers enter the draft with the No. 9 overall pick, but Rivera isn’t shy about saying that the team will look to trade down if the draft doesn’t unfold favorably in front of them.
Ron Rivera joined WFNZ in Charlotte on The Drive to discuss what the team wants to do with the No. 9 pick, his amount of input on draft day, getting players that will contribute right away, evaluating needs based on the last six weeks of last season, the difficulty of the draft as the rounds wear on and playing in a division with plenty of prolific receivers.
Would you like to make the ninth pick or trade the ninth pick?:
“The thing that we’ve got to do is we’ve got to react to what happens in front of us. If the right situation occurs, then you most certainly take the guy that’s there because he fits you. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to come in and impact you right away. … If not, then you’ve got to consider making a move. We’ve got to really look at that. Last year, we were fortunate. We had everything in place because we had the first pick. This year, we’ve got the ninth, so we’re going to react and see how things go.”
Do you have a lot of input on draft day?:
“We communicate through this entire process. This has been a tremendous process and it’s the same thing that we did last year. It’s not just me that [general manager Marty Hurney], but the other guys on the coaching staff, the other guys on his staff. … There’s a lot of guys that are giving input, positive and negative, that we hash out and we hash through and we evaluate and we set our board. We don’t go into this saying it’s all one guy’s decision. This is a collaboration that has to occur.”
On players that the Panthers pick up needing to contribute right away:
“We started the season with eight guys on practice squad and I think most of those guys that were on practice squad played for us. So, you felt good about what that rookie class did for us last year. I hope we can do the same thing. And like I said, the guys that we take early, I’m expecting them to come in and contribute.”
On evaluating needs based on performance last season:
“I take a little exception to everybody talking about what we need and don’t need. The one thing I will say is look at how we played the last six games of the season. Don’t look at what happened the first 10. Sure that’s all part of the season, but what I was concerned with about last year was playing hard, doing things the right way and getting better as a football team. When you look at our last six games, with the exception of what happened to us for three-quarters of the game against New Orleans, we did the things that we needed to do. … What we’re going to do in this draft is based on what we saw those last six weeks.”
How much harder is it to make sure you draft the right guy in the fourth or fifth round compared to the first round?:
“I think this is a very deep draft. So, as we go into it and you look at it, you say, yeah, if we can get picks here, we’d love them. … I think the thing that people have got to look at is it goes back to whether or not the guy that you want the most, that you believe is going to impact you the most, is there. When you set your draft board up, you just don’t set your draft board up in terms of ‘This is the best guy all the way through.’ … You set it up by position and where you envision these guys being taken by you.”
Do you look at other teams in the division with great wide receivers and say you need to get guys to defend the pass?:
“If we can get [injured guys] back and get them back healthy and be able to put them back on our roster and they can step up and be the players they have been and we expect them to be, we can be a better football team without having drafted anybody. … We’ve tried to create situations where we’ve added some key elements to create competition and depth. Now, as we go through the draft, like I said, we’re looking for impact players in the first few picks.”