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 40: 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 72: S Richie Grant (Central Florida)
Over the last three years, Richie Grant of UCF was one of the best defensive backs in all of college football. Due to playing in the American Conference, not many folks knew about him. Earlier this week, the Panthers informed veteran safety Tre Boston that he would be released from the team with a post-June 1 designation. To fill that void, I think the Panthers would like to pair up Jeremy Chinn with a young promising player that can help form the backbone of the secondary.
RD 4, Pick 114: DL Marvin Wilson (Florida State)
Some draft experts actually had a first-round grade on Wilson prior to suffering from a season-ending leg injury. In his sophomore and junior seasons combined, Wilson tallied 85 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble. This man was an absolute wrecking machine prior to his injury. It might be a risk to take him but doing so in the 4th round seems pretty safe to me. This will give Carolina a replacement for Kawann Short and could create the next dominant tandem with Wilson and Derrick Brown.
RD 5, Pick 154: WR Shi Smith (South Carolina)
It seems very unlikely that Carolina will be able to retain Curtis Samuel due to salary cap constraints. Since he is more than likely on his way out, the Panthers need to find a cheap replacement for him and by getting a receiver late in the draft, you check both boxes. Shi Smith is an explosive receiver that can do just about a little bit of everything. Unfortunately, he never got to fully showcase his skills due to the poor quarterback play he had during his time at South Carolina.
RD 5, Pick 186: 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: CB Tre Norwood (Oklahoma)
More familiarity here for Matt Rhule as he coached against Norwood in the Big 12 Conference during his time at Baylor. Aside from that, I think Norwood should be graded much higher than he is. He steadily improved year after year and it still feels like his best football is ahead of him. Norwood has great hands, anticipation, and rarely gets beat in man-to-man matchups down the field.
RD 7, Pick 232: TE Cary Angeline (USC/North Carolina State)
Carolina may add to the tight end room via free agency but looking in the back half of the draft may not be such a bad idea either. Angeline is a big target (6'7", 250 lbs) that can both block and be a weapon in the intermediate passing game. For his size, he runs pretty well and could immediately become the Panthers' best receiving option at tight end.
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