Round 1: Hunter Henry TE – Arkansas
It may seem unlikely considering the Panthers already boast one of the league’s best tight ends in Greg Olsen, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t make sense to add Hunter Henry to further diversify the Carolina offense.
Henry is a do it all tight end. He’s a reliable pass catcher who can make plays at every level and is also a valuable contributor in the run game with his sound blocking on the edge. The Arkansas product is massive target (6’5”) with 4.66 speed and as the clear number one tight end in this draft class the Panthers could get a steal with their 30th pick and add another talented weapon to their arsenal.
Round 2: Shilique Calhoun DE – Michigan St.
Things are looking much of the same in the second round of the Panthers Mock Draft as Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun is once again the selection here.
Calhoun has the all the measurables and the resume to be a first round pick but his inconsistency leaves him likely destined for the second or third round. He’s a long, fast and powerful edge rusher capable of getting to the quarterback in a variety of ways and if he can correct his occasional issues and develop as he could with Carolina, they could nab their pass rusher of the future here in the second.
Round 3: Xavien Howard CB – Baylor
Regardless of recent signings and the current look of the roster, the Panthers could use some added cornerback depth which should almost certainly come in April. And one potential option during the early to middle rounds is Xavien Howard out of Baylor.
Howard has solid size for a corner (6’/200lbs) and displays an excellent set of coverage skills which he put on display at the Baylor pro day in March, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. He’s got good ball skills and while he may be a liability against the run as it stands, he’s worth the selection and could develop into a valuable contributor in the Carolina secondary.
Round 4: Jerald Hawkins OT – LSU
The Panthers should look to address their need for a future left tackle in this draft and with the options likely to be rather slim early on, they may try to snatch one up in the middle rounds. And one such option could be Jerald Hawkins.
The LSU tackle has good size and length and has experience playing both sides of the line. He has solid footwork and displays good balance and positioning against edge rushers. He lacks some basic strength necessary for the positon though and will need to work on a number of technique issues. Luckily for Carolina though, they won’t need him right out of the gate and could let him sit and learn in hopes that he becomes their answer on the left side for years to come.
Round 5: Kevin Byard S – Middle Tennessee St.
Carolina is starting to make their rounds with player visits and workouts and one player they recently met with that happens to be at one of their most criticial positions of need is Middle Tennessee State safety Kevin Byard.
Byard is a seasoned vet who has terrific awareness on the back end of the secondary, able to read offenses like a quarterback. He’s a well-rounded prospect overall with good ball skills (19 career INTs) and a willingness to make plays against the run. Byard’s tackling could use quite a bit of work though and his quickness to the point of attack looks to be a step behind. In the late rounds though, you can afford to draft project of sorts and with his football IQ and overall abilities, Byard would be a solid choice.
Round 7: Drew Ott DE – Iowa
If there’s one thing that’s well known about the Panthers it’s that they love their defensive lineman. And as such, it would be no surprise at all to see them scoop up as many as they in a draft that’s deep with talent at the position. And one potential pickup in the late rounds that could find himself being a valuable asset is Drew Ott of Iowa.
Ott is an interesting case. He was an extremely productive player for the Hawkeyes but had a 2015 season cut short but an ACL injury and is still awaiting the decision on his medical redshirt application meaning he could essentially be forced to enter the draft. While this situation is still in flux though, Ott is being evaluated as if he will be drafted. He’s got a tremendous motor and wills his way to make plays and has great technique in terms of leverage and positioning. His negatives are glaring though as his speed and quickness just isn’t there and the injury could set him back further. But he’s still a hard worker who could become a quality backup option along the line for Carolina with little to no risk involved.