The NFL just released an updated draft order, which you can see below. The Panthers would have picked 28th in the 2009 NFL draft had they not traded the pick away to Philadelphia in the deal to grab Jeff Otah on Draft Day 2008.
That trade looks very good now -- the Panthers got a starting OT out of it, and the pick they traded away turned out to be quite a low one.
As of now, though, I'll bet the Panthers will end up with a first-round pick in 2009 after all. Why? They'll trade Julius Peppers for one in a sign-and-trade deal. And Peppers can very much help dictate where he wants to go, because he can simply refuse to sign a long-term deal if he's not happy with the team, and no team is going to trade a bushel of draft picks for one year of service from No.90.
Peppers, as we know, wants to go to a team that has a 3-4 defense if possible. So I've marked all the teams that run a 3-4 below in bold, in case Panther fans want to dream a little.
If Carolina trades Peppers -- and even if they don't -- I think the first pick they make in the 2009 draft will be a defensive lineman.
2009 FIRST-ROUND DRAFT ORDER
2. St. Louis
3. Kansas City
5. Cleveland 3-4 D
9. Green Bay (switching to 3-4 in 2009)
10. San Francisco
12. Denver (switching to 3-4 in 2009)
14. New Orleans
16. San Diego 3-4 D
17. New York Jets 3-4 D
19. Tampa Bay
20. Detroit (from Dallas)
23. New England 3-4 D
25. Miami 3-4 D
26. Baltimore 3-4 D
28. Philadelphia (from Carolina)
29. New York Giants
31. Arizona or Pittsburgh (Super Bowl loser) Pittsburgh has a 3-4 D
32. Arizona or Pittsburgh (Super Bowl winner)
Note: The NFL Draft will be held on April 25-26 in New York City.