If the season were to end today, the Carolina Panthers would own the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This is up to three spots from where they sat a month ago when we projected a few prospects they should consider drafting.
Three spots make a huge difference in the draft, especially in the first round. We felt it was time to take a look at more prospects that Carolina could have a chance at taking with their new draft position. Before we get started let's look ahead at the Panthers' remaining three games. They play the 10-3 Packers on Saturday night in Green Bay, travel to Washington in Week 16 to take on the suddenly surging Football Team, and then finish the year at home against the division rival New Orleans Saints who have owned the Panthers the last few seasons. Carolina could realistically lose all three games and finish the year with a record of 4-12. This could push them up even higher in the upcoming draft possibly landing them a top-five overall pick.
Here are three players the Panthers should consider drafting with their first-round pick:
No. 1: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
The rebuilding Panthers have a ton of holes but none is quite as glaring as the linebacker position. Last year Carolina decided to pass on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons in favor of defensive lineman Derrick Brown. If Parsons is available when the Panthers are on the clock in 2021, they can't pass up on the LB position again. Much like Simmons, Parsons is a new age linebacker that can pressure the quarterback and drop in coverage. The versatile playmaker was sensational for Penn State's defense last year, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He possesses elite-level talent and is a projected top-five overall pick in almost all draft analyst's mock drafts. Parsons would be a perfect addition to a defense that features up and coming defensive stars like Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn. He could be the missing piece that takes the Carolina defense to the next level.
No. 2: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Another problem for the Panthers is the offensive line. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell has been touted as one of the best offensive line prospects of all time. Sewell is listed at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds but if you turn on the tape you will somehow see an amazing athlete. He is solid in pass protection but where he separates himself is in the running game. His rare combination of size and speed would help sure up outside running plays for Christian McCaffrey. It would also make a great deal of sense for the Panthers to upgrade their offensive line before they select a future franchise quarterback. It doesn't make sense to pay for a premium quarterback until you can make sure to protect him.
No. 3: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
Teddy Bridgewater will be 29 years old with just two years remaining on his current contract after this season. He has been a fine game manager but is not the answer for the future. The upcoming draft offers a lot of talent at the quarterback position. One, in particular, is BYU's, Zach Wilson. Wilson is already drawing comparisons to last year's No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow.
While we probably have to pump the brakes on that comp, there is reason to believe Wilson can be a top-five overall pick and he offers tremendous upside. Like Burrow, Wilson essentially came out of nowhere. He has led the Cougars to a 10-1 record throwing for 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He has great awareness in the pocket and provides above-average athleticism. The more accurate pro comparison for Wilson is a Kirk Cousins type player with better running ability. If he were given the opportunity to sit and learn under Bridgewater for a year or two he could definitely develop into a franchise quarterback. Last year the Panthers drafted too late to secure Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, or Justin Herbert. All three have had promising starts to their careers. It would be tough for Carolina to pass up on a quarterback even though the team might have bigger needs at other positions.
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