Joel Bitonio speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers high on Joel Bitonio

Nevada Wolfpack product Joel Bitonio has gained momentum over the past few months as a sleeper at the offensive tackle position in this year’s draft class, and there’s even some buzz that he could sneak into the tail end of the first round. While I think that would be a reach (Morgan Moses isn’t worth a first-round pick in my book and Cyrus Kouandjio is pretty borderline), there’s little doubt that Bitonio is an attractive prospect due to his play at Nevada, ability as a pass protector, and incredible versatility (he can play at any position on the offensive line).

The Carolina Panthers need an offensive tackle badly after Jordan Gross’s decision to retire, as Byron Bell is currently penciled in (very lightly, at that) as the starting left tackle. Draft insider Tony Pauline reports that not only is Moses an option for the Panthers in round one, but they are also “very high” on Bitonio. He would be a reach for them with the 28th pick, but they might be forced to take him there if they really like him. Wide receiver is also a huge need for the Panthers and is a position with more depth in this draft class, but it’s possible that the Panthers could be forced to take an OT out of need and with the knowledge that WR is deeper than OT in this class.

Anyway, the Panthers probably wouldn’t be able to draft Bitonio in the late second due to his versatility and the buzz he’s created, and an NFC South rival looking for another tackle has interest in Bitonio. Per Pauline, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also high on him and could take him in the early second round. I couldn’t see the Panthers reaching for him in the first, but it’s worth keeping his name in mind as one of their potential options at offensive tackle.

Tags: Carolina Panthers Football Joel Bitonio Nevada Wolfpack NFL Draft Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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