The NFL Draft is right around the corner, and with it comes hope that the future can be better than the past. The Carolina Panthers have been one of the NFL’s least successful franchises over the past few years, but this mock draft offers some hope for the future.
Note that this exercise was performed using the Pro Football Focus Mock Draft Simulator. If the player was on the board when the Panthers were on the clock, then they were fair game.
Carolina Panthers Seven-Round Mock Draft 1.0
Pick 1.06: Traded
Normally, I don’t like to include trades in mock drafts. However, considering the situation the Panthers are currently in, it would be irresponsible not to trade down. There isn’t a great quarterback prospect in this class, and Carolina currently has a 131-pick gap between their first and second picks.
The New Orleans Saints recently made an aggressive trade with Philadelphia to acquire another first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. This was likely done with the intention of moving up to select a quarterback, so this trade allows the Saints to bypass potential quarterback-needy teams in the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers, meanwhile, get some much-needed draft capital to rebuild this team. Drafttek also believes this to be a fair trade, as the 1.06 is worth 1,600 points on their chart, while the Saints package is worth 1,518.
1.16: Trevor Penning, OT
In this weak quarterback class, the Panthers decide not to reach in the first round and instead select one of the best offensive tackles in a strong class. Carolina had arguably the worst offensive line in football last year, and they really haven’t done much to improve it. Whether it’s Sam Darnold or a rookie, no quarterback is going to have success behind that dismal line.
Penning has the size, strength, and physicality to start from Day 1 and should only improve with time as he adjusts to NFL competition. While he might not win Rookie of the Year, you can’t complain about getting a good starter at a position of need with your first pick.
Can't recall seeing very many OT prospects that finish blocks as regularly as Trevor Penning (LT, #70). Feels like every other play he's planting someone into the ground.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 8, 2022
2.49: Carson Strong, QB
By far the most controversial pick on this list, I believe that Carson Strong could turn into a solid NFL quarterback. While the quarterback didn’t have the best year in 2021, you can easily blame most of his struggles on his injury. Yes, football is a physical sport and everyone plays through some form of ailment, but Strong’s leg was so bad that cartilage was literally falling off the bone in his right knee.
Strong’s film was much better in 2020 and, assuming he can return to health, this is probably what he’ll look like at the NFL level. Even when he played injured, he has above-average accuracy and didn’t miss the easy stuff. Now that he’s healthy, he should have improved zip and shouldn’t be quite so skittish in the pocket. He should be able to beat Sam Darnold for the starting job, although the coaching staff might want the rookie to start the season on the bench.
3.98: Dohnovan West, IOL
The Panthers may have addressed their need at tackle in the first round, but that still leaves four weaknesses on the offensive line. Finding players that can make an immediate impact at this point in the NFL Draft is no easy feat, but Dohnovan West could be that guy. While he is a little undersized, he has sound fundamentals and can play both center and guard. While he won’t blow anyone away, he can compete to start and likely be an upgrade at any of the interior positions.
4.137: Cordale Flott, CB
At this point in the draft, you just need to take the best player available and worry about fit later. Cordale Flott has nice length, and quickness and plays through the whistle, which gives him some intriguing traits. However, his aggressiveness can be a double-edged sword, as he bites on double moves a little too easily. He’ll start his career as a backup, but he could turn into a decent role player with the right coaching.
5.144 : Zach Tom, OL
I didn’t want to take three offensive linemen in this class, but the value here was just too good to pass up. Tom played tackle and center in college, but his smaller stature means that he’ll probably have to move to the interior at the professional level. While he probably won’t start, finding someone in the fifth round with the positional versatility to play all five offensive line spots without being an outright liability makes this pick an easy decision.
Zach Tom really settled in at center. Again, LT at Wake Forest with great mobility and he's making money in Vegas. pic.twitter.com/QqgmrpTlUh
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) February 1, 2022
5.149: ZaQuandre White, RB
Christian McCaffrey hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past two years, and Chuba Hubbard was not able to adequately fill in when the star running back went down. White is a better athlete than Hubbard and offers some upside in the passing game. He is still a work in progress when it comes to identifying running lanes, but he should slot in as the RB3 on this roster with a real shot to usurp Hubbard before long.
6.199: Nephi Sewell, LB
Nephi Sewell is too small to ever develop into a starting linebacker, but he has the range, quickness, and football smarts to potentially develop into a serviceable coverage linebacker. In the meantime, he’ll have to earn a roster spot for his work on special teams.
7. 242: DJ Dale, IDL
We finish up the Panthers mock draft with DJ Dale. Dale has the size and technique to be a good short-yardage stopper, but he probably won’t turn into anything more than that. Hey, there’s a reason he’s still on the board late in the seventh.
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