Round 1, Pick 8: CB Patrick Surtain II (Alabama)
Over the last few weeks, I have projected a trade between the Patriots and Panthers and although I still believe that is a strong possibility, I thought I'd change it up a little bit. Today, I'm going with the best corner in the draft - Patrick Surtain II. The potential for Patrick Surtain II is through the roof. He's great in man coverage, zone coverage, soft coverage, press coverage, you name it, he's good at it. In my opinion, Surtain II is arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the last five or so drafts. As a matter of fact, I think he would have been a top 15-20 pick if he were allowed to be drafted following his freshman season. After just one year in Tuscaloosa, you knew right away that he was going to be special.
Round 2, Pick 39: OT Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State)
After selecting a corner in the 1st round, it's time to add some protection for new quarterback Sam Darnold. There are 2-3 really good offensive tackles that should be available early in the 2nd round but I'm going with Radunz who may be the most athletic of those still on the board.
Round 3, Pick 73: OL Quinn Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater)
The offensive line was a mess in 2020 and that will be the biggest factor in this team's turnaround - at least from an offensive perspective. He projects to be a guard at the next level but could also kick further inside at center if needed. Love the versatility and toughness that he brings to the table. He can provide the Panthers with depth and will have an opportunity to earn a starting job early in the season.
Round 4, Pick 113: S Ar'Darius Washington (TCU)
Now that the offensive line is taken care of, it's time to further help the secondary. Drafting Ar'Darius Washington will allow Jeremy Chinn to play the majority of his snaps down in the box which is a more natural fit for him. Over the last two seasons, Washington registered 83 tackles and recorded five interceptions. He should be able to come in and compete for playing time right away.
Round 5, Pick 151: RB Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State)
One of the benefits of Matt Rhule still being fairly fresh out of the college ranks is that he still has a ton of connections to the incoming rookies. For the 2nd straight round, the Panthers go with a Big 12 player that Rhule has seen up close and in person - RB Chuba Hubbard. Carolina has very little depth behind Christian McCaffrey and with him missing 13 games this past season, the Panthers must have insurance. Hubbard does a lot of things well and can also be a factor in the passing game. If he slips to the 5th round, Carolina will be happy to have him.
Round 6, Pick 193: LB Grant Stuard (Houston)
This might be the first mock draft I've done since free agency where I have the Panthers picking a linebacker. After what happened last year with Tahir Whitehead, you never want to be put in that situation again. Denzel Perryman should be a major improvement but he has to stay healthy. Stuard doesn't need to come in right away and make an impact defensively. He can serve on the special teams unit and learn all three linebacker positions until he is ready to settle into a role defensively.
Round 6, Pick 222: WR Demetric Felton (UCLA)
if I'm being completely honest, there's not another prospect in this draft class that could remind me of Curtis Samuel any more than Demetric Felton does. Coming out of college, they both have similar strengths (speed, home run ability, versatility) and weaknesses (catch in traffic, reliable hands).
If Carolina wants to replace Samuel's production in both the backfield and at wideout, Felton seems like the perfect fit. Like Samuel, he's coming into the NFL with average hands. He's got some room for improvement in that area but aside from that, he's the full package in terms of being a day three stud.
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