So what is that primary need? Rivera wouldn't say, but he mentioned the team will begin to narrow its options entering the April 28-30 draft.
"We've identified at least eight guys who we believe are going to fill those specific needs," he said. "... The next two and a half weeks, we'll be able to determine who we feel will be the guy who fits that biggest need."
Rivera said that, starting Monday, position coaches and coordinators will meet to discuss each player and how he might fit with the Panthers.
Rivera said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has met with several prospects, including Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, and that many of the draft hopefuls came in and performed exactly as advertised. Rivera also said he disagreed with the sentiment that there isn't a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 pick.
The Panthers' draft process has been more difficult this year. Normally, teams fill immediate vacancies with free-agent veterans before the draft. This year, without a collective bargaining agreement and with a lockout in place, player movement is halted and teams must adjust their draft strategies accordingly.
"It changes a lot of mindsets. Not just ours, but everyone around the league," Rivera said. "Let's say we take this position. OK, now, that just basically signals to a lot of people of what our intention probably would be in free agency.
"We're in a spot now where we've got to really look at what could happen. We've got to be very careful, very smart how we approach it."