The Carolina Panthers writing team here at LWOS has decided to collaborate and give you three different mock drafts at three different time periods of the offseason: before free agency, after free agency, and draft week. Through this series, we will be able to see how well each of our Panthers staffers were able to predict the Panthers real life picks and what circumstances may change their predictions. Welcome to mock draft season, 2019. All picks were made using the Draft Network’s mock draft machine, which predicts the draft on a pick-by-pick basis and allows the user to make selections for one or more teams.
Carolina Panthers Mock Draft: Post-Free Agency Edition
ROUND 1: Pick 16
Alvarez: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
This would be a dream scenario for Carolina if Ferrell dropped to them at 16. The Clemson edge rusher has been one of the most productive at his position over the past two college seasons. He has the length and size to fit into the Panthers base 4-3 defense comfortably. Carolina not only fills their biggest need, but goes with the best player available on the board as well.
Wexler: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
The Panthers luck out in this scenario where need meets best player available. Burns is a no-brainer at pick 16. With comparisons to Von Miller, he could provide incredible speed and athleticism off the edge along with ability to drop back into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker. There are few players I’d choose over Burns at this spot if I’m Carolina. Which I am right now, so Burns it is.
Gage: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
The post-Julius Peppers era is set to begin. What better way to replace the future Hall of Famer than to draft an absolute animal that recorded 27 sacks in his collegiate career? If Ferrell falls to the 16 spot, he will be the best player available as well as the best fit in Carolina. In a division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, getting to the quarterback will be of the utmost importance, and that just so happens to be Ferrell’s specialty.
Xavier: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
The Panthers struggled getting to the quarterback in 2018, which resulted in the secondary frequently being torched. We should get a chance to see more of Marquis Haynes and Jermaine Carter in the 3-4 defense that the Panthers are rumored to implement next season. With the goal in 2019 being to get younger and faster, Ferrell is an excellent pick due to his explosiveness off of the ball and ability to bother the quarterback.
ROUND 2: Pick 15
Alvarez: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
The re-signing of Daryl Williams may have fans thinking the Panthers are done making moves at the offensive tackle position, but with the release of Matt Kalil, that opens up room to add some guys in the trenches. Dillard may not be the most powerful run blocker but he is extremely athletic and excels in pass protection. With an athletic quarterback like Cam Newton, it opens up the offense to have a tackle like Dillard on the roster. Him and Taylor Moton could make for an incredible pass blocking duo and give Newton the clean pocket he’s desperately needed.
Wexler: Erik McCoy, C. Texas A&M
The Panthers addressed the retirement of Ryan Kalil by signing former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis. They were also able to bring back Daryl Williams on a one year prove it deal. None of this means they should be done trying to beef up their offensive line in 2019. Erik McCoy has shown great potential throughout his college career as a zone scheme run blocker and a leader. He struggled at times against longer limbed interior lineman but holds up strongly in the pass rush game most notably with his ability to recover even when thrown off-balance. Best player available meets need for the Panthers once again in the second round.
Gage: Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
In the first round, the Panthers addressed getting to the quarterback. In the second round, they want to protect their own. Cam Newton has been sacked 68 times over the past two seasons (2.3 taken sacks per game), and his health has become an issue. Lindstrom is a top-notch run blocker and operated in a play-action-heavy offense in college. This particular skill set could translate well into Carolina’s offense with the backfield duo of Newton and Christian McCaffrey. He has yet to prove himself as a true pass blocker, but he’s got a high ceiling.
Xavier: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Originally, I had the Panthers selecting an offensive lineman in the second round. But now that I see that Carolina didn’t get a safety in free agency, it’s imperative that they get someone in the secondary that can make an immediate impact. Thompson could fall this far due to the depth of the EDGE rusher class.The safety is also fresh off of a wrist surgery, causing some teams to be reluctant about grabbing him earlier on. Deionte Thompson and Rashaan Gaulden are two guys that can add some “swag” and explosiveness to the secondary across from Eric Reid. Thompson is a good big-hit guy and can cover effectively. The only concern with his game is aggression. Sometimes he lacks discipline and may cost the team a big play by over-pursuing. Issues aside, he’s still a plug and play NFL starter. This pick would give an immediate boost to Carolina’s new-look defense.
ROUND 3: Pick 13
Alvarez: Marquise Blair, S, Utah
Safety is one of the positions the Panthers desperately need to get younger at. Eric Reid sures up the strong safety position but now the Panthers must search for a prospect that can play single high over the top. Blair did plenty of that while at Utah and is versatile enough to play up in the box and cover man-to-man as well.
Wexler: Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
I took Savage here in my first mock and I’ll take him again. The Panthers have yet to address the safety position in free agency. Until they do, drafting a rangy guy who can cover the back end is a must. The Panthers spent two draft picks on former Maryland Terrapins in 2018 and continue this trend here. Savage is on the smaller end but provides speed, range, and instinct to play across from Eric Reid. With so many quality names remaining in free agency, I fully expect the Panthers to bring in a veteran on another cheap, prove-it deal. This is insurance.
Gage: Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
Like Wexler above, I like Savage here. The safety position is a must for the Panthers, and Savage checks the most boxes. Though not the biggest guy, Savage has blazing speed and a high IQ to make up for it. Carolina needs someone that can play alongside Eric Reid on the back end, and Savage fills that void.
Xavier: Ben Powers, OL, Oklahoma
Powers is an exceptional power protector, which is great for Christian McCaffrey and whoever else will be running the ball. He may not blow people away with his athleticism, but his 6’4, 314 pound frame helps him drive defenders right into the turf. Powers is extremely competitive and the offensive line needs that fire…badly. Taylor Moton, Daryl Williams, and Matt Paradis will anchor the line, but pieces are still needed. The current interior lineman situation for the Panthers is questionable at the moment. Powers could be a guy who comes in and wins the starting job on day one. But if not, he’s a solid project player that could end up starting later on.
ROUND 3: Pick 36 (Compensatory)
Alvarez: Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
Ferguson is a versatile edge rusher than can play the defensive end position in a 4-3 but can also slide inside and play the three or five-technique in sub packages. He was an extremely productive four-year starter recording 67.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks for the Bulldogs. The Panthers are going to open up the defensive playbook and give different looks in 2019. Having versatile defensive linemen like Ferguson will make that more achievable and it will allow Carolina to move on from guys like Vernon Butler and Marquis Haynes.
Wexler: Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke
The Panthers need some depth at inside linebacker after losing David Mayo in free agency. Giles-Harris has shown strong instincts in college and will be able to learn from one of the best to ever do it in Luke Kuechly. Many have even pegged him as a plug and play starter at the MIKE. This would be a very strong compensation prize for losing Andrew Norwell in free agency last season.
Gage: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
It’s no secret that the offensive line needs some upgrades. Howard has size (6’5, 322) and athleticism, though his technical skills could use some work. Despite a lower level of competition at Alabama State, he was able to show off his abilities when the Hornets played the Auburn Tigers, where he held his own with the “big boys”. Howard has next-level quickness and fluidity in blocking both the pass and run, but will need a bit more polishing before he’s ready to make the jump to NFL starter. Some reports suggest he could be gone as early as the first round, but I don’t think so. If he falls this far, he could be a steal for the Panthers.
Xavier: Connor McGovern, OL, Penn State
Yes, I doubled down on guards in the third round. McGovern may not have the same chance to start in 2019 like Ben Powers, but would be a welcome addition to a struggling line. There are concerns about his football IQ, explosiveness, and timing. He’s been able to make up for those issues at Penn State with his athleticism. Unfortunately, that won’t work in the NFL. He will need lots of coaching up before he’s able to start and compete at a high level. With that being said, he should be drafted based on his potential alone. If McGovern and Powers end up being successful, the Panthers will have finally given Cam Newton an offensive line he can work with.
ROUND 4: Pick 13
Alvarez: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
I was riding high on the Panthers taking Easton Stick in this year’s draft but all signs are pointing towards Will Grier. Carolina has met with Grier twice this off-season and the former Mountaineer is one of the more intriguing quarterbacks in this draft. The Panthers may have to take him earlier because he may not fall to the fourth round.
Wexler: Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR, North Carolina
The Panthers snag another local product here with UNC’s playmaker Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Carolina is in need of a return man and strongly values versatile wideouts (see DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel). You get both here from ARW, with some potential as a downfield threat.
Gage: Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
Even with the addition of DJ Moore a year ago, the Panthers have one of the weakest receiving corps in the league. With the departure of Devin Funchess and the health issues Greg Olsen has had in the past, getting another talent to catch passes will be a welcomed sight. Ridley may not have the speed or quickness of his counterpart in Moore, but makes up for it with his hands and route-running. Carolina passed up on Calvin Ridley a year ago to take Moore, but they don’t miss a chance at a Ridley here.
Xavier: David Sills V, WR, West Virginia
I’m a big fan of Sills. After the Panthers let Devin Funchess walk in free agency, they are in need of filling some roster spots at receiver. Look no further than the 6’4, 211 pound David Sills V. The main differences between him and the two big-men receivers that the Panthers just had is his aggression, passion and catching ability. He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but when the team needs a 50-50 ball to come down in their favor, Sills is the guy you want to go to. This is a low-risk, high-reward pick for the Panthers and could be the steal of the draft.
ROUND 5: Pick 16
Alvarez: Blace Brown, CB, Troy
Brown has all the traits, size and technique you want at the corner position except he went to a small football program so he has flown under the radar. In college, he played a lot of boundary corner in a cover three defense, something the Panthers run a lot. Brown possess great ball instincts and is aggressive in forcing turnovers. His play style is very similar to Josh Norman’s and with Brown, Carolina can throw the quicker Donte Jackson in the nickel position in sub packages.
Wexler: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
Looks like patience was a virtue in my draft (@Alvarez). The Panthers grab the talented QB in hopes to develop him as a backup to Cam Newton. He could also make for some strong trade bait down the road. This is a long term, low-risk investment. Carolina met Grier for dinner after his Pro Day on March 20th.
Gage: Dontavius Russell, DL, Auburn
Russell has the potential to be the anchor of a run-stopping defensive front. He is a true hustle player that can cause chaos up front and take on double teams.. He needs work as a pass rusher, but could be used as a specialist in short-down sets until his game fully develops.
Xavier: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Christian McCaffrey’s Stanford successor could be a perfect backup for him in the pros. Some of the load needs to be taken off of McCaffrey and given to a back with his similar skill set. Love has the elusiveness to make defenders miss along with the power to run through tacklers, regardless of his smaller frame. Sound familiar? The way the league is trending, teams are moving towards multiple halfbacks to carry the run game. The Panthers haven’t had that since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. It’s time to bring it back.
ROUND 6: Pick 14
Alvarez: Jazz Ferguson, WR, Northwestern State
When looking at the list of prospects the Panthers have visited this off-season, one name stood out to me because I had never seen it before. That player was Jazz Ferguson and after watching his tape, I am convinced he is the big-bodied receiver the Panthers have been dying to have. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands and positions his body well to make the tough, contested catches. The kid is a playmaker and could help every fan forget the busts of Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin.
Wexler: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
REUNITE THE STANFORD BACKFIELD. Seriously, how cool would this be? I don’t think he fits the exact mold the Panthers are looking for in a backup to Christian McCaffrey, but maybe the two buddies could get the most out of each other here. Love has struggled with the injury bug, but has proven to be one of the best running backs in the college ranks when healthy.
Gage: David Sills V, WR, West Virginia
Sure, doubling-up on wide receivers instead of taking a corner or linebacker may not be the best idea, but Sills V is too good of a pick to pass up at this spot. I considered him much earlier and passed on him, so to see him fall this far took me by surprise. Sills V provides that big body that the Panthers have yearned for in the past. Many thought Kelvin Benjamin was the answer, but we have since seen how that turned out. Now that Funchess is gone, this 6’4 wideout could be the piece Newton has been missing in the red zone, where most of his offensive troubles have come in previous years.
Xavier: Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State
Very quick and able to cover ground. His footwork is questionable on the next level, but can be corrected. He may make a solid impact on Special Teams.
1: Clelin Ferrell EDGE
2: Andre Dillard, OT
3: Marquise Blair, S
3: Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE
4: Will Grier, QB
5: Blace Brown, CB,
6: Jazz Ferguson, WR
The signing of Matt Paradis has me believing that the Panthers will no longer take an interior offensive lineman in this draft unless a top prospect fell to them later in the draft. While the Bruce Irvin signing fills a significant hole, Carolina still needs to get more explosive and versatile at the defensive line position. Also, look for the Panthers to address the secondary position as the safety and corner class is very deep in 2019.
1: Brian Burns, DE
2: Erik McCoy, C
3: Darnell Savage, S
3: Joe Giles-Harris LB
4: Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR
5: Will Grier, QB
6: Bryce Love, RB
If the Panthers don’t get an EDGE in the first two rounds, it could spell disaster. They are in a good position to fill some pressing needs in the first four rounds, especially with deep talent at those positions of need. The draft falls nicely in this scenario with a great mix of drafting for need while also taking some of the best talent available. I’m not convinced free agency changed anything in regards to draft strategy other than the absolute need to grab a safety as one of their first four picks.
1: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE
2: Deionte Thompson, S
3: Ben Powers, OL
3: Connor McGovern, OL
4: David Sills V, WR
5: Bryce Love, RB
6: Kendall Sheffield, CB
The main priority this off-season was to get better on defense. Ferrell and Thompson are immediate starters that can shut down opposing offenses immediately. Cam Newton is fresh off of a shoulder surgery and he claims that he feels better than ever. It would be great to keep him that way. Williams, Moton and Paradis are all solid lineman that can keep Newton upright. Adding Powers and McGovern would bring more youth to that line. In this scenario, Cam gets two new weapons along with the ones he already has. If they both play well in a limited role, this could be Newton’s best passing season yet.
1: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE
2: Chris Lindstrom, OL
3: Darnell Savage, S
3: Tytus Howard, OL
4: Riley Ridley, WR
5: Dontavius Russell, DL
6: David Sills V, WR
As previously stated, this scenario is unlikely to unfold this way, but if it does, the Panthers could get several high-level players for relatively cheap. The issues of CB and LB, as well as any potential for backups at QB and RB are not addressed, but are not as big of a concern as a solid EDGE and OL upgrades. Two WR picks is risky, but payoff could be tremendous.
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