The Panthers struck gold last year with their first-round draft pick.

Like quarterback Cam Newton the previous year, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly won AP Rookie of the Year honors after leading the league in tackles.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera indicated this week the Panthers will be looking to find Kuechly some help – in the form of a wide-bodied defensive tackle who can keep blockers off Kuechly in the middle of the 4-3 defense.

“I think it’s a need. Is it one of our top needs? We’ll see as we go through the free agency process and the process of scouting these college football players,” Rivera said last week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“But I do know having stout, physical defensive linemen is important. Just ask the linebackers. They’ll tell you how important it is so they can run and make plays.”