The Carolina Panthers are on the cusp of greatness. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but they are entering a pivotal offseason in which they really have a chance to slingshot their rebuild back into contender status.
A year after drafting all defensive players, the Panthers will surely look to the offensive side of the ball for most of their early selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean defense will take a year off like offense did last year.
Here’s what a Panthers seven-round mock draft could look like.
Round 1 (No. 8 overall): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
The Panthers have already shown us, via their involvement in the Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson conversations, that upgrading their quarterback position is their highest priority. Picking at No. 8, they’ll be lucky if Lance makes it to them. There is a good chance the Panthers need to trade up to get the quarterback they really want. Such a move could cost them future draft capital—and high capital at that. Regardless of whether it’s at No. 8 or higher, the first pick has to be a quarterback for them. Lance might be the fourth drafted quarterback in this draft, but he has all the tools you could ask for.
Round 2 (No. 39 overall): Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
When it comes to free agency, re-signing right tackle Taylor Moton should be one of the top priorities in Carolina. But when it comes to left tackle, things aren’t as easy. The Panthers started Russell Okung at left tackle last season, but he is a free agent as well. They also have Greg Little, but they may want a better option to invest in at their franchise spot. Mayfield has high upside with size and athleticism. If they want a potential starter at left tackle via the draft, this is probably the last pick they’ll have the chance to do it.
Round 3 (No. 73 overall): Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
After moving on from long-time tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers went all-in on Ian Thomas for 2020. Thomas saw the most playing time, but the consensus seems to be the team would love to upgrade, if they can. Jordan brings a high upside in the passing game both in-line and in the slot.
Round 4 (No. 113 overall): Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
The Panthers do have a need at cornerback that could warrant a selection sooner than this, but I think they’ll be at a fork in the road when the opportunity presents itself. The sweet spot for a corner they’d want to bring in is probably with their second-round pick. It’s there that they’ll need to choose between a corner and an offensive lineman. I went O-line in the second, so I'm going corner here to start day three. Williams has ideal length and an aggressive style you like to bet on.
Round 5 (No. 152 overall): K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Day three of the draft is all about filling your roster out with the guys you want to be rotational contributors as well as special teams playmakers. That’s what Britt can be. He likely won’t be taking over a starting linebacker job for the Panthers, but he’s a smart, experienced linebacker who knows his way around a 4-3 base formation—and can also be a good depth player on special teams.
Round 5, Pick 158: Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Double dipped on cornerback in this draft for the Panthers—which they could certainly do regardless of where they end up taking their first one. Rochell is another good player to bet on because of his size and physical play style. He relies a little too much on his physicality and strength in coverage, but if he can get patient with his technique, he could be a solid outside cornerback.
Round 6, Pick 195: Drake Jackson, IOL, Kentucky
Jackson is an experienced interior offensive lineman, and if the Panthers can get him this late in the draft to add to their depth, they would be wise to do so.
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