The Carolina Panthers' coaching staff led by Matt Rhule will be coaching the American Team in this weekend's Reese's Senior Bowl. The National Team will be coached by Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins' staff. This was a good move by two teams that missed the playoffs in 2020 and are looking to build for the future.
Here are 10 prospects that the Panthers should pay close attention to:
QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas
The Panthers are in a tricky spot when it comes to the quarterback position in this year's draft. The consensus top three prospects will likely be long gone by the time Carolina gets its first-round pick at No. 8 overall. The eighth pick is also too high for the next tier of QBs like Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. Both of whom are on Rhule's team in the Senior Bowl. This leads me to believe that the Panthers could skip picking a signal-caller in the first round altogether and use a day two pick on one instead.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger would fit this plan. Ehlinger is likely to slip into the second or third round in the 2021 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was extremely efficient in his time with the Longhorns. He threw 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions in his senior season. His arm strength is limited but he brings some tremendous athletic upside to the position. He is someone that could benefit from sitting behind Teddy Bridgewater for a year.
QB Ian Book, Notre Dame
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book is similar to Ehlinger in a lot of ways. He is a bit smaller at 6-foot-0 and 206 pounds. The difference is that Book has played in some big games at Notre Dame. He has proven to be calm and cool under pressure. This is something that cannot be overlooked when evaluating an NFL prospect at the QB position.
Book is likely to be a day two pick as well which fits what Carolina's draft strategy is likely to be. Remember new general manager, Scott Fitterer, was part of the Seattle Seahawks' organization when they selected Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft.
WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson
The Panthers could lose Curtis Samuel in free agency this offseason leaving a hole at the team's strongest position. The 5-foot-10 speedster is electric with the ball in his hands. His ability to pick up yards after the catch is exactly what offensive coordinator Joe Brady looks for in a playmaker.
TE Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
Carolina essentially got no production out of its tight end position last season. Joe Brady used TE's extremely effectively at LSU but could not get any of them involved with the Panthers. Ole Miss' Kenny Yeboah could help change that. He was able to pile up 524 receiving yards and five touchdowns on just 27 catches in his senior season. That's an average of almost 20 yards per catch!
OL Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
Carolina needs some help on the offensive line. Hopefully, the team is able to bring back free agent Taylor Moton. But even if they do, they have some serious needs upfront. Hainsey is likely to be a second or third-round pick because he plays the less valuable position of guard. He has also been taking some reps at center in the Senior Bowl practices. Hainsey is a very good run blocker. This is important for a team that wants to establish the run and help All-Pro Christian McCaffrey bounce back next year.
OL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
Alabama produces some of the most pro-ready players year in and year out. Offensive lineman Landon Dickerson stands at a towering 6-foot-6, 326 pounds. Dickerson missed the college football playoffs due to a knee injury which could cause him to slip a little in the draft. The Panthers would be smart to take advantage of this.
DL Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
If there is one weak position in this year's draft it is probably the defensive line. It is simply not as deep as we have seen in recent years. Still, there is some great value at the position for teams to take advantage of. Wake Forest's Carlos Basham Jr. has shown that he is more than capable of rushing the passer. He recorded an impressive 11 sacks in his junior year. NFL teams can always use a defensive lineman that can bring down opposing quarterbacks and Carolina is no exception.
DL Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
Patrick Jones II had nine sacks in his senior season with the Pittsburgh Panthers. The 6-foot-4 defensive lineman has a quick first step and great hands to throw off offensive lineman. He is also pretty versatile because he can rush from inside as well as come off the edge.
LB Jabril Cox, LSU
It's no secret that the Panthers have a great need for the linebacker position. The team was never able to fill the gap left by Luke Kuechly last season. LSU linebacker Jabril Cox could not fill that hole by himself, but he could sure help out. Cox is a new age LB that can excel in pass coverage. He had three interceptions last season and even brought one back for a touchdown.
CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
Ambry Thomas sat out the 2020 season. In 2019 he had three interceptions and showed some promise for the Wolverines. At 5-foot-11 he will probably be pigeon-holed into a slot corner. But that's actually where the Panthers could use some help. Slot receivers have grown in popularity in the NFL and the NFC South features some of the best. Thomas could help limit their effectiveness.
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