Carolina made big strides in the 2011-12 NFL season and most of the accolades are going to rookie quarterback Cam Newton, but the team rallied around new head coach Ron Rivera and played hard all season.
The Panthers head into the 2012 draft with needs for a wide receiver and help on defense. The offense has a good set of running backs and veteran wide receiver Steve Smith proved he still has some gas in his tanks, but another receiver would open up the offense even more next season and give Newton another weapon to use. The defense was spotty all season and especially when Carolina played teams with a good offense and needs to add a pass rusher and help in the secondary.
Bleacher Report has the team taking Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina with the eighth overall choice in the NFL Draft. Jefferey had a slow season after a terrific 2010, but quarterback problems and injuries made it possible for the opposing defense to double-team the star wide out for most of the season.
Carolina could also take Courtney Upshaw of Alabama with this choice and it would give the team a speed pass rusher from the outside and a linebacker that can cover the entire field. There is a strong case for Upshaw being the pick as the 2012 draft is deep at receiver and the team could take a solid wide out with their second round pick.
The NFL has become a league of scoring, but teams with weak defenses seldom make the playoffs and Carolina needs to upgrade this unit if they want to contend any time soon for the post-season. Look for an active off-season for the Panthers as they try to use the draft and free agency to take that next step and improve upon their 6-10 record of 2011.