Each Sunday, I'll be releasing a new Carolina Panthers seven-round mock draft. From now up until the first Sunday of April, I will not be projecting any trades.
RD 1, Pick 8: QB Justin Fields (Ohio State)
After his performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, everyone had Fields as a lock as the No. 2 pick. If the Jets weren't going to take him, someone would trade up to get him. Now, you're starting to see Fields slide in several mocks and I'm not exactly sure as to why. Since he's sliding in others, I'll say he slides to the Panthers at No. 8. If Carolina does not choose to trade up, and Fields is still on the board, it's going to be extremely difficult to pass him up.
RD 2, Pick 39: OT Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State)
Bringing back Russell Okung is not a great idea. He's 32-years old and has had injury problems over the last couple of seasons. 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 up front.
RD 3, Pick 73: CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse)
Carolina doesn't have a whole lot of depth or experience at the cornerback position. Rasul Douglas is a free agent and there's no telling as to whether or not they will re-sign him. Melifonwu has great size (6'3", 215 lbs) and can match up with just about any type of receiver. He's physical over the middle of the field and tends to win the majority of the one-on-ones deep down the field.
RD 4, Pick 113: WR Frank Darby (Arizona State)
Curtis Samuel is an unrestricted free agent and if the Panthers are unable to bring him back, they will need to find a replacement for him Darby is slightly bigger than Samuel but has a similar playing style, which is why I believe he would be a perfect fit in the Panthers' offense. He's a bit of a home run threat as he averaged 19.7 yards per reception during his collegiate career. His explosiveness and reliability should make for a seamless transition post-Curtis Samuel.
RD 5, Pick 152: S Caden Sterns (Texas)
Although it may not be a true Matt Rhule connection, Caden Sterns did face Rhule twice during his time at Baylor. Sterns emerged into one of the top safeties in the Big 12 throughout the course of his career, but there are still several areas of his game that he can develop. I'm not sure he would be quite ready to step in and make an impact right away but down the road, Sterns should bring some value to an NFL defense.
RD 5, Pick 185: OL Drake Jackson (Kentucky)
Matt Paradis has not lived up to expectations in his two years at Carolina. By drafting Jackson in the 5th, you can give him some time to sit behind Paradis until he's ready to take the job over. Jackson started 44 consecutive games at center and was named First Team All-SEC.
RD 6 Pick 195: TE Noah Gray (Duke)
Taking Gray at this spot may be a bit of a reach, but the Panthers want to add some competition to the tight end room. Ideally, Carolina could trade back and potentially acquire another late-round pick in 2021 or the future. With all that said, Gray will be the best available option at this point. He never developed into a star at Duke, but he does have the tools to become a very solid NFL tight end.
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