I’m channelling my inner Kevin Costner. VONTAE MACK NO MATTER WHAT. In a mini series i’m going to run the mock draft simulator, and make the selections of the team in question fr the first THREE rounds of the draft. No trades, we’ll see how the cards fall, and make selections accordingly. If you are a Carolina Panthers fan, I want you to head over to twitter right here… yes there, no go back, click on the blue shiny word, and I want you to call me a bum, to call me a genius, and everything in between. This is a bit of fun, of course without trades it’s not quite true to life but I’ll walk you through my theories and share the experience with you!
Round 1 – Pick 8
The Panthers first round pick this year has suddenly become a bit of a strange one, as up until this point I’ve been convinced it would be a QB. Now that Sammy Darnold is in town, that comes into question, however there might still be an outside chance of them taking one anyway?
Not for me, in my eyes this is now a spot for the Panthers to take the best player available. Sam Darnold has already been handed the reigns, as the Panthers allow Teddy Bridgewater to explore his options, and with Matt Rhule on a long term contract, with time on his side, they can explore the Sam Darnold experiment properly over the next year or two, rather than take the 4th/5th best QB available in this years draft.
They’re on the up, and I like where the roster is heading. Carolina added some promising weapons on defence in last years draft, and heavily focused on that side of the ball. So how do they begin the draft this year? On the clock at 8, and with no trades, I have a decision to make. Do I think the Panthers could trade back from here? Yes very possibly. But not today…
Selection: Rashawn Slater – OT Northwestern
With Penei Sewell off the board at 5 to the Bengals, Slater falls into the laps of the Panthers, and it would be hard to pass. I was torn, torn between Slater, Waddle, and Patrick Surtain. Slater is the sensible pick. Grabbing the best corner prospect of the draft to add to a secondary that includes last years rookie standout Jeremy Chinn, and Donte Jackson, could also be a pretty sensible option. Waddle is the splash pick. He’s exciting, the Panthers lost Curtis Samuel in the off season. He’d be a serious compliment to an offence now being run by Sam Darnold, and would give him the best chance of success. Plus Joe Brady would draw up all sorts of magic for him. But none of that matters if you can’t hold a pass rush off you long enough to make it happen. We’ll have a look at the weapons available to us in round 2. Slater comes in after sitting out the 2020 season, heralded a left tackle currently, but could easily slide into guard, where some scouts actually believe he can be most successful.
Round 2 – Pick 39
Carolina are back on the board at 39, and my initial thought was to look at defence. The front seven has had itself a nice upgrade in free agency this off season, as the Panthers added Denzel Perryman, the 28 year old linebacker formerly of the Chargers, and Hasaan Reddick, who was a cap casualty making his way out of Arizona after having the best year of his career so far. With Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson, and Gross-Matos already in the building, that’s the makings of a very good front. Jeremy Chinn, last years second round pick, was a top contender for defensive rookie of the year, and appears to be a home run hit for Carolina so far. So the only thing I can really justify on defence here, is another safety or a corner. Asante Samuel Jr, Elijah Molden, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Tyson Campbell are all available, but this spot is too high for those guys, so again I’ll take my chances on a better value corner being available later on. Same situation with the safeties. I like Jevon Holland, and he’d pair well with Chinn, but it’s too early. I really could make a case for Zaven Collins, and I’m stunned he’s still available, but it’s not the pick for me here. So…
Selection: Liam Eichenberg – OT Notre Dame
Sorry Panthers fans, it lacks excitement I know, but what I have done is added 620 pounds of rookie flesh to protect your new quarterback, and allow Joe Brady and the offence the time to pick defences apart. Eichenberg, unlike Slater, is going to be less versatile in his positional options. He’s a left tackle, that’s where he belongs. So what this pick means is that Eichenberg will slot straight into left tackle on day 1, and the Panthers make plans for their first round pick Rashawn Slater to dominate at guard for years to come. Two linemen in the first two rounds, when you look at the roster, and the talent available, I think it makes total sense.
Round 3 – Pick 73
I need to address the cornerback situation here. Elijah Molden has just gone off the board, but he’s a slot/nickel corner, and I’m looking for an outside guy, so that’s not a problem. I need a big bodied corner. Donte Jackson is only 5″10, and considering the Panthers have to match up against Mike Evans and Julio Jones twice a season each, not to mention Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin… the list goes on… I need a guy with adequate size who can pair up with the bigger body receivers.
Selection: Ifeatu Melifonwu – CB Syracuse
The Syracuse corner turns out to be my pick after much debate between him, Tyson Campbel, and Paulson Adebo of Stanford. Key word, physical. Melifonwu suits playing zone coverage best, but could also turn out to be a real asset in press man coverage, which is going to be key for the Panthers as they make this cornerback decision. As already mentioned, it’s a tough division, so the incoming corner needs to be prepared for that. Melifonwu is a bigger body type, with great length and a 6″2 frame. He’s the ideal size for an NFL corner, and gives the Panthers a totally different type of player to Donte Jackson. Again, I think he’s a great fit here in Carolina.
There you have it Panthers fans. Two very solid offensive lineman to heavily bolster the protection for Sam Darnold, then a big bodied corner to fill one of the final missing pieces on a defence that’s improving at a rapid rate. Let us know what you think!