Each Sunday, I'll be releasing a new Carolina Panthers seven-round mock draft.
Projected Trade: CAR sends No. 8 pick to NE for No. 15 pick, 2021 2nd round pick (No. 46), 2022 1st round pick
Round 1, Pick 15: CB Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech)
I have a strong feeling that either Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or maybe both are still going to be available at No. 8. With Carolina trading for Sam Darnold, it makes sense for them to trade out of that pick if two of the top offensive linemen are both off the board or they get overwhelmed with an offer. Corner is another spot that the Panthers need to look at improving which is why I have them taking Caleb Farley at No. 15 via New England. The Patriots are not known to be aggressors in the draft or in free agency but we've already seen that this year appears to be a different approach. They trade up to get their future QB, while Carolina adds picks and still fills a need by selecting Farley.
Round 2, Pick 39: TE Pat Freiermuth (Penn State)
Pat Freiermuth of Penn State has the exact makeup of what a tight end should look like in Matt Rhule's offense. He's a tough, physical tight end that seeks contact which makes him arguably the best blocking tight end in this draft. As good of a blocker he is, don't overlook his ability to be a threat over the middle of the field and in the red zone.
Round 2, Pick 46: OT Alex Leatherwood (Alabama)
By trading out of the No. 8 pick, Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are no longer options for the Panthers. In my opinion, Alex Leatherwood is the third-best tackle in this draft class.
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. He's as close to a plug-and-play prospect as you can get in the 2nd round as a lineman.
Round 3, Pick 73: OL Quinn Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater)
Meinerz is rapidly becoming one of the top offensive linemen in this year's draft. He mainly lined up at left guard during his college career but also took reps at center at the Reese's Senior Bowl and looked pretty smooth doing it. He's got a ton of strength and does a really good job of creating holes up front in the run games. Pass protection is not bad by any stretch of the imagination but is an area where he can improve. Scouts are falling in love with this guy and when you turn on the tape, it's not hard to see why.
Round 4, Pick 113: RB Pooka Williams (Kansas)
It's pretty obvious at this point but the Panthers need to bulk up the running back room following Mike Davis' departure to Atlanta. Williams is like lightning in a bottle and can strike at any given moment. He's extremely shifty, has great change of direction, and is a slippery back (hard to tackle). In 2.5 seasons at Kansas, Williams rushed for 2,832 yards and 12 touchdowns on 415 carries. He's not the biggest back in the world, so don't expect him to take any 3rd and short carries but having he and McCaffrey both on the field at the same time could cause opposing defenses to have problems. Like McCaffrey, Williams can be reliable catching the ball out of the backfield and even lining up as a wideout.
Round 5, Pick 151: S Darrick Forrest (Cincinnati)
After a very strong Pro Day, Forrest is seeing his draft stock rise dramatically. He's a strong open-field tackler and can even play down in the box if needed. In 2019, Forrest racked up 106 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and three interceptions. The Panthers need a replacement for Tre Boston and although I'm uncertain of his immediate impact, I do believe Forrest can develop into a quality starter toward the back end of his rookie contract.
Round 6, Pick 192: WR Jaelon Darden (North Texas)
Carolina needs to add to the receiving corps despite the addition of David Moore. Darden brings tremendous value early in the 6th round with his blazing speed. After the show he put on at his Pro Day, I would not be surprised if he sneaks into the 5th round, maybe higher depending on what scouts think of him. This past season, he caught 74 passes for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 16.1 yards per catch. He's a home run threat at all times.
Round 6, Pick 220: DT Naquan Jones (Michigan State)
Aside from Derrick Brown, the Panthers have very little to no depth on the interior of the defensive line. Although I wouldn't be shocked if they took one much earlier in the draft, I see the 6th round being a reasonable time after addressing some major holes on the offensive line.
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