These 6 players could be Carolina Panthers by the end of the NFL draft's first round

These 6 players could be Carolina Panthers by the end of the NFL draft's first round

CHARLOTTE, NC (Jourdan Rodrigue/CharlotteObserver) - Draft day is upon the Carolina Panthers.

Once selections begin at 8 p.m., general manager Marty Hurney and his staff will pick at No. 24, barring a trade up or down.

Carolina also has pick Nos. 55, 85, 88, 161, 197, 234 and 232 over the three-day draft, with several areas of need to fill.

Biggest needs include, in no particular order, safety, cornerback, interior offensive lineman, running back, tight end, receiver and defensive end.

At No. 24, Carolina has a ton of flexibility at the pick point and in trades either up or down in the draft.

Here are six players who could be Panthers by the end of Thursday night:

Justin Reid, S, Stanford

Hurney said he won't reach on a safety and Reid might be a slight reach at No. 24. But he's versatile and consistent, with the physical and mental ability to be a long-term franchise player. He'd also fill a top area of need, as the Panthers are without a starting safety opposite veteran Mike Adams.

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

A Charlottean who has shot up draft boards in recent weeks, Alexander would be a great fit opposite starting cornerback James Bradberry. At 5-foot-10, he's shorter than outside corners Carolina has had in the past, but Alexander's chippiness and physicality might be exactly what is needed to boost a stagnant secondary.

Frank Ragnow, G/C, Arkansas

Carolina brought in Ragnow on a late top-30 visit this spring, and it's easy to see why they like him: He could immediately fill a need at left guard and could easily transition to center once veteran Ryan Kalil retires after the 2018 season.

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

One of the more solid cornerbacks in the draft, Jackson might be gone by the time the Panthers pick. If he's not, he's an easy decision to immediately start in Carolina because of his build, football IQ, athletic ability and his talent for making plays on the ball.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Ridley's draft stock has actually dropped a little bit in recent weeks as the rush for quarterbacks in early picks begin. Some are concerned that he can't be a deep threat, but Ridley showed in college that he can be a versatile, dominant receiver.

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

Moore has drawn comparisons to Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr. and could be a great weapon for quarterback Cam Newton all over the field. He also may have passed Ridley in preseason conjecture as the top wideout in this draft class, and might not make it to No. 24.