He said: Too many offensive playmakers in NFL draft for Panthers to pass up

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joseph Person/The Charlotte Observer) - In deciding whether the Carolina Panthers should shore up their secondary or give quarterback Cam Newton another weapon, I'm always going to lean toward an offensive playmaker.

I'm not the only one who thinks that; so does Cam.

In a couple of Instagram posts this offseason – typed in his goofy font – Newton responded enthusiastically in threads about Dez Bryant and the top receivers in this year's draft class.

Newton was having fun on social media and wasn't making an ultimatum to general manager Marty Hurney.

But I will: Get Newton some more help.

The Panthers began this process last year under Dave Gettleman by using their first two picks on running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

Seeing the need for speed on offense, Hurney traded Kelvin Benjamin last October and continued making over the wide receiver group last month by acquiring Torrey Smith in a trade with Philadelphia and signing former Minnesota slot receiver Jarius Wright.

While my colleague Jourdan Rodrigue thinks the Panthers should address the secondary with the No. 24 pick next week, I say find another pass-catcher for Newton – not to mention new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Devin Funchess and Smith represent a good starting point at wide receiver, but the Panthers could use a fast, explosive player in the slot. Maybe that's Wright, although the 28-year-old caught only 29 passes over his final two seasons with the Vikings.

Russell Shepard is a great locker-room guy and a solid special teams contributor, but he didn't have a touchdown or a catch longer than 19 yards after Week 1.

Damiere Byrd and Samuel are young, promising playmakers … if they can stay healthy.

It just so happens this draft is chock-full of exciting slot receivers, most notably Texas A&M's Christian Kirk, Memphis' Anthony Miller and – my personal fave – Maryland's D.J. Moore.

I sat next to Moore on a flight from Charlotte to Indianapolis, but that's not the reason I like the Philadelphia native.

Moore has good size (6-0, 210), speed (4.42 in the 40 at Indy), hands and character. And he's lightning with the ball in his hands.

Think Steve Smith, only a little bigger.

Most experts have Moore rated the second best receiver in the draft, behind Alabama's Calvin Ridley. Ridley won't be around when the Panthers pick in the first round, but Moore might be.

The Panthers could roll the dice and try to get Kirk or Miller in the second round, but they might both be gone when Carolina's pick comes around at 55.

NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, a former Panthers scout, makes a convincing argument for South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst to Carolina at 24.

The Panthers lost No. 2 tight end Ed Dickson to Seattle in free agency, and Pro Bowl starter Greg Olsen is coming off foot surgery last season (and an audition for "Monday Night Football" in March).

Brooks points out that Newton likes to work the middle of the field and has a tendency to overthrow his receivers. Putting the athletic, 6-4, 250-pound Hurst alongside the athletic, 6-5, 255-pound Olsen makes a lot of sense for Newton, who thrived as a rookie throwing to Smith and the tight end tandem of Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.

Like Moore, there's no guarantee that Hurst will fall to the Panthers at 24.

If he's gone, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki – who has a lot of the same qualities as Hurst – would be a good second-round pick.

With the number of quality slot guys and tight ends (South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert is another), this draft seems to set up well for the Panthers. And with four picks in the first 88 selections, Hurney should be able to get a pass-catcher and a starting-caliber safety or cornerback early on.

But like the Panthers did last year, I'd take care of my franchise quarterback before I did anything else.