I don't think it's much of a secret that the Panthers need to rebuild their offensive line. Outside of figuring out their long-term solution at quarterback, fixing the offensive line has to be the team's top priority.
Although the Panthers have the 8th pick in this year's draft, the quarterback that they like may not be on the board. If that's the case and they stay at No. 8, it may make sense for Carolina to look at drafting an offensive lineman.
Today, we look at seven offensive linemen that could make a difference for the Panthers as a rookie.
OG Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
There's a lot to like about Alijah Vera-Tucker. He's got great explosiveness in run blocking, great footwork in pass protection, and packs a punch with his strong hands. Vera-Tucker has played multiple spots on the offensive line which gives a team like the Panthers some flexibility. However, I think he projects best as an interior lineman. He'll still need to pack on another 15 pounds or so but that should be no problem once he gets into an NFL strength program.
OT Penei Sewell (Oregon)
Sewell has the ability to be a franchise tackle as early as his rookie season and reminds me a lot of Tristan Wirfs who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year's draft.
In the run game, he plows right through defenders, and man, it's fun to watch a big guy just dominate his opponent like that. He fires off the ball, mows through his guy across the line of scrimmage, and then immediately seeks for the next guy to take out. Pass protection is often the biggest question mark for offensive linemen when they make the jump to the NFL, but not for Sewell. He's as polished as they come and is going to be a prospect teams are going to drool over in the pre-draft process.
OT Alex Leatherwood (Alabama)
Leatherwood is a very athletic tackle that can get to the second level of the defense rather quickly. He does a great job of identifying who is coming on the blitz and who is dropping into coverage. Getting any sort of a pass rush on him seemed impossible for a lot of teams. Leatherwood has great balance, footwork, and stands defenders straight up to where they have a severe lack of movement. If there is any one flaw in his game, I would say it's consistency. His production isn't hit or miss from play to play but there's a lot of plays where I think he could do more. Maybe he was getting bored of dominating the guy lined up across from him?
OT Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame)
Eichenberg would be someone the Panthers can insert right into the left tackle spot from day one to replace the veteran Russell Okung. He's got great upper-body strength and is a very good run blocker. The one area I believe Eichenberg will need some improvement in is protecting the quarterback on outside rushes. If the blitz comes right at him, he typically holds up, but once he gets stretched outside, he becomes a little inconsistent. With that said, there are really no red flags that come with Eichenberg. Just like any young tackle, he'll need a little development but with time, could be a huge building piece for an NFL franchise.
C Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
Most centers in college football are one of the smaller guys on an offensive line, but not Creed Humphrey. There aren't many true centers out there with his size and his pure strength. He's one of the more unique offensive linemen that I've seen come out of college in that he is so dominant playing a position that you wouldn't expect him to line up at. Since Carolina restructured the current starting center Matt Paradis' contract, I doubt Humphrey would start out at center. He could easily be kicked out to guard and potentially moved back to center if the Panthers move on from Paradis after 2021.
OT Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State)
To help rebuild the offensive line, Radunz seems like the perfect fit. He's a tough, blue-collar type of guy which is exactly what Matt Rhule and his coaching staff are looking for. By re-signing Taylor Moton and drafting Radunz, the Panthers are on the right track to fixing things upfront. He's an athletic tackle that has great lateral movement which makes him a premier player in pass protection. He could play either tackle spot but with his athleticism, length, and range, I'd project him to be on the left side to protect the quarterback's blindside.
OT D'Ante Smith (East Carolina)
Smith is going to be a bit of a work in progress at the next level. He's got to iron out a few things such as his footwork, winning one-on-ones consistently, and be more efficient in the run game. All that said, Smith's potential is something that the scouts are going to fall in love with. He could be a hidden gem in the middle rounds of this year's draft.
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