Round 1 (Pick 25)
There is certainly a lot of reasons for the Carolina Panthers to be interested in running back Todd Gurley. The team has glaring hole behind Jonathan Stewart with the team releasing DeAngelo Williams this offseason. Head Coach Ron Rivera has stated that “I think it's been proven that you've got to have a good two-back tandem.” He went on to say at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, “"Jonathan will carry the bulk of what we do going into the 2015 season, but at the same time we want to make sure we have a guy waiting in the wings.”
It certainly sounds like they will be addressing the running back position in the draft and it will be earlier rather than later.
The only concern with Gurley comes down to a torn ACL injury he suffered at the end of last season. He is still recovering from this injury and has yet to really workout for any teams. If the Panthers’ medical staff feels comfortable with his progress to this point and he comes back healthy, he has the talent to be one of the best running backs in the league.
Round 2 (Pick 57)
The Panthers have addressed the offensive tackle position this offseason with the additions of Michael Oher as well as claiming Jonathan Martin off of waivers. However, the front office should not be comfortable with either option long term and will need to get an offensive tackle early in the draft.
The pick of Jake Fisher makes sense here, who was the starting left tackle for the University of Oregon last year but also played right tackle at the collegiate level. The experience of playing on both sides would be an excellent fit for the Panthers, since a starter really isn’t solidified in either spot.
While he is not necessarily a flashy player who is going to put up impressive workout numbers, he is a solid player who should be able to contribute, or at least compete, for a starting spot.
Round 3 (Pick 89)
Pick: Za’Darius Smith, DE (Kentucky)
The last mock draft I put together, I had Za’Darius Smith in the third round for the Panthers and even though the first two picks changed, this selection still makes sense to me.
According to Walter Football, the former Kentucky Wildcat had a strong pro day and was “super impressive in both linebacker and defensive line drills, looking smooth and athletic.” This would be a versatile piece the defense could use to rush the quarterback with his hand on the ground at defensive end or standing up at outside linebacker.
Round 4 (Pick 124)
The Panthers brought back their four man rotation at defensive tackle with the re-signing of Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards this offseason to back up starters Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. However, Cole and Edwards are the two oldest players on the Panthers’ roster and the team should try to add some young talent to work into the rotation.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote in his scouting report of the defensive tackle, “He has the look of a penetrating nose who will have to start his career as a backup.” This certainly sounds like the perfect fit the Panthers and what they need at the position.
Round 5 (Pick 161)
The Carolina Panthers had their wide receiver coach on hand for Mayle’s Pro Day, according to Walter Football. This certainly makes sense as the Panthers could be looking for another wide receiver with size to play on the outside opposite Kelvin Benjamin.
At 6’2” and 224 pounds Mayle certainly looks the part. Dave-Te’ Thomas wrote in his scouting report of Mayle, “is like a locomotive once he gets the ball in his hands” and “can obliterate smaller defensive backs that get in his way when blocking in the second level.” If the Panthers hope to lean on the tandem of Stewart and Gurley, a run-blocking receiver like Mayle would be a good pick.
Round 5 (Pick 169)
Marshall is an interesting prospect considering he played quarterback in college at Auburn. However, he understood early in the draft process that if he wanted to play at the next level he would need to switch positions. He started his collegiate career at Geogia at cornerback but was dismissed by the team before ending up at Auburn.
At the Scouting Combine, he worked out both at quarterback and cornerback. Any team that drafts him understands this will be a project but he has the physical abilities to play the position. The Panthers struck gold in the fifth round last year at cornerback with Bene Benwikere, will they do it again with the pick of Marshall?
Round 5 (Pick 174)
The Panthers are pretty well set at the starting center position with Ryan Kalil. The issue is the fact that they don’t have much depth behind him. A player like Shaquille Mason would be great value at this point in the Draft. Similar to Marshall though, the Panthers would have to show a little bit of patience as he played guard in college and doesn’t have much experience at center.
Dave-Te Thomas talked about the transition to center in his scouting report and wrote, “As for a possible shift to center in the NFL, Mason has the thick, squat frame associated with the pivot position. He plays with a wide base and has a very strong lower body. His upper body strength is above average and he possesses an explosive initial punch to knock defenders back.”
Round 6 (Pick 200)
I have been on the Laurence Gibson bandwagon the past few mock drafts and still believe this would be a great pick for the Panthers. The selection of the former Virginia Tech Hokie would help solidify the depth at the offensive tackle position.
This is something that was severely lacking last year and in a short period of time the front office have provided excellent competition at the position that will give them the best starting offensive tackle combination in 2015.
Round 7 (Pick 242)
Pick: Kyshoen Jarrett, SS (Virginia Tech)
Similar to Gibson, Jarrett has been my pick for the Panthers in previous mock drafts and I see no reason for that to change. The team brought in Kurt Coleman, who can play either safety position, but don’t necessarily have a long term answer to eventually replace Roman Harper.
Jarrett is a hard hitting safety who can play up close to the line of the scrimmage. If he is given a year or two to develop, he could become the player the team is looking for to pair up with Tre Boston.