Round 1: Jayron Kearse S – Clemson
With the 30th pick in this year’s draft the Panthers will likely take a similar approach as last year in taking the best player available on the board. While he’s somewhat raw and may need a little time to grow into himself, Jayron Kearse out of Clemson looks like a player that Carolina will likely have eyes on who would fill a need and be one of the top talents on the board.
In a relatively weak safety class, Kearse has the measurables and body type that leaves scouts salivating. At 6’5”, 220lbs, the Clemson safety is an athletic freak capable of being a powerful force stopping the run as well as being able to cover ground and matchup well with shifty tight ends and receivers; something that former safety Roman Harper had trouble with. Whether he immeditaley became the starter or sat behind Tre Boston for a bit, Kearse could prove to be a valuable asset on this Panthers defense.
Round 2: Kendall Fuller CB – Virginia Tech
The Panthers’ biggest needs all reside in the secondary and with the Kearse selection in round one, a cornerback with solid potential who could fall should have Carolina chomping at the bit. Kendall Fuller had a terrific sophomore season which had many scout intrigued heading into potentially his final year in college. But his junior year wasn’t what many expected as a torn meniscus ended his season and he was left with just three games to build off of his impressive resume.
Fuller has solid size for a corner in today’s NFL (6’, 190lbs) and the shiftiness and knowledge to make smart plays on the ball in coverage. He’s also better when playing in zone coverage which is the primary focus of the Panthers’ defense. And with cornerback depth a glaring weakness on the Carolina roster, adding a solid performer that could be plugged in from the get-go to a group that included Bene Benwikere and the likely-to-be re-signed Josh Norman could turn this bunch into a huge advantage.
Round 3: Shon Coleman OT – Auburn
Once again, offensive tackle is a need for the Panthers in this 2016 offseason, although not as glaring as in years past. With solid play from Michael Oher and Mike Remmers for much of the season and the addition of promising young tackle Daryl Williams, they can afford to wait on a player at the position if need be. Shon Coleman’s projected round varies among scouts but the Panthers should look his way whenever they’re on the board.
Coleman is a cancer survivor who missed time battling the illness came back to Auburn and started at left tackle the last two year’s becoming one of the SEC’s top blockers. He’s got the size and feel for the tackle position and is a strong pass blocker on the left side who plays with a mean-streak about him. He’s an older prospect (25) and at times looks to be raw, but even just one year to sit and develop could do wonders and give the Panthers a franchise left tackle likely available in the third.
Round 4: Harlan Miller CB – Southeastern Louisiana
As previously mentioned, the Panthers cornerback depth was tested this season and adding as many possible assets is a necessity this offseason and in the draft they could easily look twice at the position. And a lesser known FCS prospect rising in the rankings would be a welcomed addition. Harlan Miller has come on as a popular small-school sleeper after a strong Senior Bowl showing and has the skills set to be a contributor in the NFL.
Miller has solid height (6’) for the position but is somewhat thin (180lbs). What he lacks in overall bulk though he makes up for in tenacity as he has a knack for the ball and the quickness to deflect and pick off passes with ease. He’s also a more than willing run stopper capable of running across the field to stop a play. As a fiery competitor he could provide Carolina with another option on the outside at corner, further strengthening the unit.
Round 5: Bryce Williams TE – East Carolina
Surrounding Cam Newton with weapons has been an issue since he was drafted by the team in 2011. But a dynamic tight end duo of Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey helped out the young quarterback immensely and adding a young pass-catching tight end to join Olsen and give Newton another dynamic playmaker like Bryce Williams, at the position could pay dividends.
Williams is part of a weak crop of tight ends but has the abilities to develop into a solid mid-to-late round weapon. The ECU product is a massive target at 6’6”, 260lbs, something that Gettleman has target in receiving threats in the past, and has proven to be a reliable pass-catcher in space. He’s not a great blocker but his size lends itself to being serviceable in that regard and his playmaking talents, and willingness to run across the middle and lay out for the catch would give Carolina another huge target to line up on offense.
Round 7: Byron Marshall RB/WR – Oregon
An offense can never have too many weapons and at the back end of this draft the Panthers could have a chance to score a versatile threat they haven’t ever really possessed. Byron Marshall of Oregon has experience playing running back and wide receiver and is the type of gadget player that can make plays from various spots on the field whether it’s in the slot or out of the backfield.
Similar to De’Anthony Thomas, Marshall is a small explosive threat that can rush with consistency and has also proven that he can produce in the slot catching passes downfield as well. His speed also makes him a valuable return option and he works well in space to get open. He's still raw as a receiver and not a true three-down back by any means but a player of his skill set could be an incredible asset to add to the Panthers already dominant and creative offense.