The Carolina Panthers 2017 picks are set and they have four in the top 100.
They knew a pick was coming, but not exactly where. But we now know the Panthers have been awarded a 3rd round compensatory pick, No. 98 overall. Going in to the draft last season, it seemed like the Panthers were looking to build depth. After the implosion of 2016, there are a few major holes on the roster, they won’t have that luxury this season. With the wealth of high picks, the Panthers have to come out of this draft with at least three new starters. Another thing to keep an eye on is going to be the trades. This will is the first season that teams are able to trade away compensatory picks. Panthers GM, Dave Gettleman, has a knack for moving up in the 2nd and 3rd round to draft players who may have slipped. For the sake of this mock draft, I won’t be factoring in trades.
First round – No. 8 – Derek Barnett – DE Tennessee
The Panthers are in position to land a day one starter at No. 8. There are a lot of great players available here and it’s going to come down to need and value. All American DE Derek Barnett fills that role. Barnett has been a massive force for the last three season and has 33 career sacks.29 of those sacks came against the top line SEC talent. Pairing Kony Ealy alongside Barnett with give the Panthers the best pair of DE’s they’ve had since Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson.
Second Round – No. 40 – David Njoku – TE Miami
Sure, Greg Olsen is arguably the best TE in football, but adding another weapon to the arsenal for Cam Newton is always a good idea. Njoku possess the speed and hands to be an elite TE in the NFL. His blocking is above average for someone who has only played two season at the TE position. He has plenty of room for improvement and the work ethic to make it happen. Njoku gives QB Cam Newton another big red zone target and becomes the heir apparent to All-Pro TE Greg Olsen.
Third Round – No. 72 – Marcus Williams – S Utah
Carolina has a great history with players from Utah and Marcus Williams is next in line. Tre Boston has been a liability since they drafted him and Williams is an instant upgrade. Williams can be another day one starter alongside Kurt Coleman and can be the final link in the Panthers secondary youth movement. He’s going to need to tack on some weight to be able to tackle at the next level, not uncommon for most players. But at this point in the draft, he’s too good to pass up.
Third Round – No. 99 – Juile’n Davenport – OT Bucknell
The Panthers have swung and missed on their last few small school OL picks. Davenport looks to be the player to buck that trend. Long arms, big hands and he’s got the weight to hold up. He might take a season to get ready to take over the LT spot. But scouts believe that he has the skill set to play LT in the NFL.
Fourth Round – No. 104 – Pat Elflien – C Ohio State
The Panthers were decimated at the center position last season. Ryan Kalil went down midseason and three different players started games. Kalil is a perennial All-Pro player, but he’s on the back side of this career. Drafting Elflien here would do a couple things. It would set them up with a player who could step in at either G position if the Panthers face the type of injuries they did last season and he would become the heir to Ryan Kalil who only has two seasons left on his deal.
Fifth Round – No. 152 – Ryan Switzer – WR North Carolina
Ryan Switzer finished his career at Carolina with just about every record in the books at the WR position. He also tied the NCAA record for career kick returns for TD’s. Switzer has work to do to get on the field as a WR, but he could be the Panthers PR/KR man week one. There is also a ton of potential for Switzer in the slot. His routes are always solid and has a history of not being afraid to go across the middle. Pure grit.
Sixth Round – No. 192 – Storm Norton – OT Toledo
Building for depth. Standing at 6’8” and 310lbs, Norton is a monster. He is raw, but at this point in the draft, everybody has issues. Gettleman loves his “Hog Mollies” and he gets another one here. OL depth can’t be the issue it’s been for the last five season.
Seventh Round – No. 232 – Joe Mixon – RB Oklahoma
Total flyer on the last pick. Joe Mixon is clearly one of the top RB’s in the draft. But his massive off the field issues cause him to slide and nearly out of the draft. After a two-year-old video surfaced of him punching a female, many teams took Mixon off their board all together. In fact, Carolina may be one of those teams. But it’s likely that his talent will keep him in play. At this point in the draft, he could be worth the risk.