Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN released his latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft and I must say, it's um....quite interesting to say the least. There are a few projections in his top ten that will make you scratch your head but there's not one more mindboggling pick than the one he has made for Carolina - WR DeVonta Smith (Alabama).
Sure, the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, and getting your new quarterback some help should always be the main priority. However, the Panthers already have a star-studded receiving corps with Robby Anderson and DJ Moore. Not to mention Christian McCaffrey coming out of the backfield. As talented as Smith is, the Panthers would be making a huge mistake if they selected him with the 8th overall pick. The only two "weapons" Carolina should consider at No. 8 are TE Kyle Pitts and WR Ja'Marr Chase. To me, Chase is the best wide receiver in this class whereas Smith has the talent but there are question marks around his thin frame.
Even if Chase is still available, it doesn't really mean he's the best option for the Panthers. The one area where Darnold needs the most help is along the offensive line. His o-line in New York was atrocious and Carolina's wasn't much better in 2020. Right tackle Taylor Moton is the only consistent player that the Panthers have up front. Instead of focusing on a receiver, they should be debating about which offensive tackle to take. Penei Sewell (Oregon) or Rashawn Slater (Northwestern)? Drafting one of those two tackles immediately gives Darnold protection on both edges which will limit the number of times he is put under duress.
What about corner? The Panthers added A.J. Bouye earlier in the month but there's no certainty that he can return to his Pro Bowl form. Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) and Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) could come in and help stabilize that position group right away.
To be honest, if Carolina does take a skill player at No. 8 it should be Kyle Pitts and Kyle Pitts only. If he's off the board, then offensive line and corner are where the Panthers need to go. Drafting DeVonta Smith to be your No. 3 wide receiver (maybe) doesn't seem to make a ton of sense to me.
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