The Carolina Panthers are ushering in the Frank Reich era. Reich has made several terrific hires across his staff by appointing Thomas Brown and Ejiro Evero as his offensive and defensive coordinators. There’s legitimate reason for hope in Carolina.
Next on Carolina’s to-do list is to address the quarterback position. Reich is expected to possess an opportunity the Indianapolis Colts denied him at his last place of employment—a chance to draft a quarterback of his choosing. The Colts played the carousel game by recycling veteran quarterbacks. Reich will be anxious to avoid repeating his mistakes. Reich has to get the quarterback decision right this time.
With that being said and with plenty of moves still to come ahead of April’s draft, here’s what a seven-round draft for the Panthers might look like if it happened now.
(Note: I completed this mock draft using the Beta version of our Mock Draft Machine 2.0, which you can access by becoming a TDN Premium member!)
Round 1 (No. 9 overall): C.J. Stroud QB, Ohio State
In this scenario, both Will Levis and Bryce Young were selected within the first four selections and I was comfortable letting the board fall favorably for the Panthers. Equipped with just seven selections, the Panthers must be mindful of overpaying to move up, especially when a quarterback like C.J. Stroud falls in their laps at ninth overall—I could see Reich preferring Stroud over Young and Levis.
A former quarterback himself, Reich would undeniably appreciate Stroud’s blend of high-level traits, size, and instincts. Stroud is an advanced quarterback prospect that does well to navigate through his progressions. That will matter to Reich and Brown. Stroud is a highly accurate quarterback who also happens to be the best anticipatory thrower in the class. Stroud could quickly command Reich’s offense.
Round 2 (No. 40 overall): Tucker Kraft TE, South Dakota State
Carolina could immediately invest in Stroud’s supporting cast by utilizing their very next selection on a game-changing tight end. South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft is a dynamic prospect with excellent size, speed, and short-area quickness. Kraft creates advantageous situations for himself as a pass catcher. He also doubles as a standout run blocker, too.
Ian Thomas is a potential cap casualty. Tommy Tremble continues to develop slowly. The Panthers have struggled to find a dependable weapon at tight end in recent years. Kraft could fill that void.
Round 2 (No. 62 overall): Jack Campbell LB, Iowa
Shaq Thompson posted 135 tackles this season, but releasing the 28-year-old veteran would clear a sizable $13.1 million in cap space. Damien Wilson is another candidate to be released. The Panthers are going to revamp their linebacker position.
The Panthers have lacked a shot-caller at linebacker since Luke Kuechly retired prematurely. Jack Campbell is a reigning Butkus Award winner that plays a throwback physical brand of football. Campbell is an outstanding processor. He’s going to be a playmaking machine at the next level.
Round 3 (No. 94 overall): Tyler Scott WR, Cincinnati
The Panthers created a 31st-ranked 36 explosive passing plays this season, per Sharp Football Stats. Finding a legitimate deep threat opposite D.J. Moore is a top priority for general manager Scott Fitterer. Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott has speed in bunches.
Scott’s elite speed allowed him to embarrass defenders on a fairly routine basis. Drafting Scott would force opposing defenses to cover every blade of grass. That wasn’t a necessity against the Panthers last season.
Round 4 (No. 115 overall): Adetomiwa Adebawore EDGE, Northwestern
Brian Burns is a legitimate sack artist and the Panthers should extend his contract this offseason. Burns’ current deal is set to expire at the conclusion of 2023. Carolina must hold onto Burns while adding another quarterback hunter opposite him. Adetomiwa Adebawore was a standout performer at this year’s Senior Bowl. Adebawore can reduce inside on third-and-obvious. Ejiro is creative enough to maximize Adebawore’s versatility.
Round 4 (No. 133 overall): Byron Young DT, Alabama
Derrick Brown is developing into a dominant interior defender but the Panthers require more behind him. Alabama’s Byron Young is a high-floor prospect who can play every position across the defensive line. Young is an extremely intelligent player with rare intangibles as a motivator and leader. NFL franchises value the unteachables Young brings to the table.
Round 5 (No. 148 overall): Tank Bigsby RB, Auburn
Re-signing rushing leader D’Onta Foreman should be relatively affordable, but the Panthers should still add another ball-carrier via a mid-to-late round selection. Chuba Hubbard hasn’t quite met his pre-draft expectations. Tank Bigsby is an explosive runner with a track background. Bigsby is a threat to score every time he touches the football. Bigsby would compliment Foreman nicely.
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