Ethan Hewett | April 16th, 2020
The Carolina Panthers have entered a new era of football. They cleaned out the coaching staff and brought in former Baylor Bears Head Coach Matt Rhule to lead the Panthers into the next decade of football. With a new offensive-minded coach, the offseason consisted of getting pieces around running back Christian McCaffrey, whom the Panthers just gave a four-year, $64 million dollar contract. They started by giving quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a three-year, $63 million contract and also brought in former XFL star quarterback P.J. Walker. The Panthers also added receivers Robby Anderson and Seth Roberts.
The Panthers also traded away guard Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers for offensive tackle Russell Okung. Notable defensive signings included linebacker Tahir Whitehead, tackle Zach Kerr, and re-signing safety Tre Boston. While these moves are positive, the loss of Luke Kuechly to retirement, and the departure of several other pieces, including Eric Reid, Gerald McCoy, and James Bradberry, is significant. For these reasons, Carolina needs to focus on the defense early in this draft. All three levels could use a playmaker, and this year’s draft may provide just that.
To help with this mock draft, I used The Draft Network mock draft simulator.
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Round 1, Pick 7: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
I debated for a long time where I would go with this pick. While Brown seemed like the obvious choice, I strongly considered grabbing a left tackle in this spot. Tristan Wirfs fell here, and I almost pulled the trigger. However, I stuck with a defensive mindset. I picked up a playmaker in Brown who has become one of the most well-rounded defensive tackle prospects in recent draft memory.
Brown is by far the best defensive tackle in this draft class. He can do just about anything you ask him to, and he will do it well. He can penetrate, two-gap, and operate in any defensive front you put him in. His speed jumps off the screen when you realize just how big he is, and his power is off the charts. This quickness allows him to shoot through gaps in the backfield, and he eats up blockers and running backs in the middle of the defense. Brown would be an instant starter in a Carolina front that currently lacks a strong interior presence.
#Auburn DT Derrick Brown — Watch this clip…
• Beats the guard off the jump
• Forces the ball to bounce
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 24, 2020
Round 2, Pick 38: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
The loss of Bradberry is significant, but this draft class presents a few cornerbacks who could slide to the early second round and still provide solid play. Terrell is one of those players. He has the fluidity to play off man coverage and quickly adjust and break on throws in front of him. He shows both solid man and zone coverage skills, but he could be beaten up by bigger-bodied physical receivers in the NFL. Terrell has excellent length to make plays on the ball and provides reliable run support as well.
Round 3, Pick 69: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
It’s time to address one of the most significant holes in this defense—the loss of Kuechly. While Wilson won’t be able to fill the massive shoes right now, he does possess the skill set and football I.Q. to be the new leader on the Panthers defense potentially. Wilson reads the backfield well and works laterally across the field, and his quick hands allow him to shed blocks. While his overall speed may not be incredible, he is quick. His strong football IQ will enable him to make plays at the line of scrimmage consistently.
Wilson is strong in underneath coverage as well. While he may not be the greatest man-to-man matchup, he hits his spots in zone coverage and gets deep enough to keep the plays in front of him to crash down on receivers. The question is whether or not he will be more consistent in coverage at the NFL level with slightly stiff hips limiting his mobility. Wilson is one of my favorite linebackers in this draft.
#GoWyo LB Logan Wilson (no. 30) is one of the better tacklers and run defenders I've watched in this class
PFF has him logged for 3,618 snaps in his four year CFB career and it's evident on tape how pro ready he is pic.twitter.com/fsbcwWoL7w
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) March 26, 2020
Round 4, Pick 113: Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
With Greg Olsen departing, the Panthers need to address the tight end spot. Giving Bridgewater as many targets as possible is going to be vital. Moss, son of the Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, is one of the more balanced tight ends in a weak 2020 class. He lacks polish as a route runner, but he is an absolute bruiser at the line of scrimmage. Moss’ size and frame allow him to consistently gain leverage at the line of scrimmage and make contested catches. His size and knowledge of blocking schemes will outweigh his need to develop as a route runner. Moss would see a lot of reps early and provide solid run blocking for McCaffrey.
Round 5, Pick 148: Julian Blackmon, S, Utah
The Panthers need to reload in the secondary. After picking up Terrell early in the second round, adding a safety here in the fifth would provide depth and also a potential starter in Blackmon. While Blackmon is being mocked as a mid-round pick, he is one of the more versatile defensive backs in this draft with his switch from corner to safety. He suffered a knee injury back in December after putting up 60 tackles and four interceptions in 2019. While there might be some injury questions, Blackmon is a reliable safety who can work from sideline-to-sideline. However, he is better suited covering his half of the field and serving as the strong safety, which the Panthers need.
Round 5, Pick 152: Keith Ismael, IOL, San Diego State
While the Panthers have added players at the tackle spot, they lost a promising guard in Turner. Ismael would be a solid pick up here. He is an interior offensive line prospect that could go higher. Still, he will most likely fall to later rounds due to the skill that he faced in the Mountain West Conference. He is a solid run blocker who thrives in space and can get to the second level. He fits best in a zone scheme in the run game, and he also has shown a good ability to defend against interior pass rushers. Ismael could be a day one starter, but will most likely serve as a solid backup who could develop into a reliable starter in a year or two.
Round 6, Pick 184: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Whoever decides to take a chance on Gandy-Golden in this draft is going to be very happy with the selection. The small school receiver is NOT a small receiver; in fact, Gandy-Golden is probably the best receiver you haven’t heard of yet. While the Panthers do have a lot of speed and Anderson is a solid pick up, they still lack a genuine red zone threat. Gandy-Golden has the strength, ball skills, and size to be that guy and bully defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. He reminds me of D.K. Metcalf in that he still has some work to do with his route tree, but should serve well as a deep threat role receiver in the NFL day one.
Round 7, Pick 221: Trevis Gipson, EDGE, Tulane
With the final pick for the Panthers in the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s time to add some depth at pass rusher. Brian Burns looks to be a promising edge rusher. Still, they lack depth at the position, and Gipson would serve as a good developmental prospect who has shown bursts at times and has a decent ability to bend the edge. Gipson could end up on the practice squad this year, but there isn’t any loss in having some extra depth along the defensive line.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images