Perfect Picks: Carolina Panthers
With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock machine and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.
We will highlight four players that could help each team. This will feature picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper.
The Carolina Panthers made some strides under first year head coach Matt Rhule but there is work to be done. They were involved in 11 one-score games, only coming out on top in 3. It is easy to believe with some additions from the draft process and with a new quarterback at the helm, this could be a playoff team.
Time is ticking for the other teams in the NFC South. The Saints have to face this season without the retired Drew Brees, Matt Ryan is in the twilight of his career and how long can Brady continue to play at Super Bowl level? With the right team building Carolina could be the next in line to the throne.
Round 1 - Pick 8 - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The feeling was Teddy Bridgewater was a factor in why the Panthers couldn’t convert those close games to victories. Carolina had to make a move at the quarterback position and did so by acquiring Sam Darnold. It’s difficult to know if the change of scenery and Joe Brady offense will allow Darnold to thrive but options were rapidly running out. The 49ers were aggressive to move up to pick 3 and the Panthers felt taking Darnold filled the spot and opened up the eighth overall pick to take an elite player.
If they landed Penei Sewell, they will feel they couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Despite only playing two seasons (one of which was cut short by injury), Sewell became heralded as the top non-quarterback in this draft cycle. He only conceded 1 sack in 1,376 snaps and enters the league at the tender age of 20. Sitting out last season gave analysts time to pick holes in his game and his measurables were questioned, particularly his 33 ¼ inch arms. The fact is he remains one of the most talented tackles we have seen at the college level without being anywhere near his ceiling. A slam dunk for the Panthers if he was still sitting in the green room.
Round 2 - Pick 39 - Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The Panthers will have a decision to make when Donte Jackson’s contract is up at the end of this year. That tied with the fact they have little depth outside of Jackson at cornerback mean that they must find an answer in the draft. Luckily, the early second round should see plenty of viable options in a well stocked corner class.
Eric Stokes was one of the better secondary players in the SEC last year. So much so, that opposing offenses tended to steer clear of attacking his side of the field. He was a track athlete in high school so his blazing 40 yard dash shouldn’t have surprised as much as it did. Stokes also managed to find a nose for a turnover in 2020, grabbing four interceptions, having none in the two years prior. His speed and ability in man coverage should ensure a team like Carolina has the belief he can start immediately on the outside.
Mid Round Gem - Pick 73 - Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
Since the departure of Greg Olsen the Panthers have lacked a weapon at the Tight End position. Ian Thomas has shown improvement at the spot but further additions would be no surprise. Giving Sam Darnold a reliable pass catcher in the middle of the field is the kind of safety blanket that will aid his transition.
Outside of Kyle Pitts, Boston College’s Hunter Long is one of the most complete players at the position in this draft cycle. Long is a chain mover, who has proven to be dependable in red zone situations. He was tied third in contested catches last year per PFF and that helps disguise his average athleticism. His solid blocking means he won’t be found out at the next level, often the key to seeing action early for tight ends.
Late Round Sleeper - Pick 193- Brennan Eagles, WR, Texas
The departure of Curtis Samuel to the Washington Football Team ensures that DJ Moore and Robby Anderson will be catching the majority of Sam Darnold’s passes in 2021. Outside of that you could see some competition for snaps at the position. More depth and further options will likely be sought come draft time.
Brennan Eagles was a four star recruit out of high school and ranked as the tenth best player at his position. While he didn’t explode for the Longhorns he flashed potential, showing why he was so highly rated. Not a natural separator nor crazy quick, Eagles still had a knack of catching the ball deep downfield. Vertical threats at his size with that recruiting history tend to get another look at the NFL level. For that reason he could be a late day 3 pick that offers something different to this Panthers team.
Draft In Full:
8. Penei Sewell, Oregon (OT)
39. Eric Stokes, Georgia (CB)
73. Hunter Long, Boston College (TE)
113. Drew Dalman, Stanford (OC)
151. Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (S)
193. Brennan Eagles, Texas (WR)
222. Khyiris Tonga, BYU (DT)
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com.