Round 1: Sterling Shepard WR – Oklahoma
The Panthers don’t need a receiver. Not in the first round or really any other. Kelvin Benjamin will be back with a solid group behind him. But when you have a roster that’s as packed as Carolina’s is and has a few holes as it does, you can afford to get a little greedy and while it may seem slightly unnecessary, grabbing a receiver like Sterling Shepard at the end of the first round could pay huge dividends.
Shepard isn’t known to be one of the top tier receiving talents in this class but he’s right on the cusp and could be a sleeper on the Panthers draft board. He’s a speed threat who burst onto the scene at Oklahoma in his senior season. While his size and speed combo make him a likely slot receiver in the NFL, he can still run a variety of routes on the tree with excellent quickness and the ability to make the tough catches. You can never have too many weapons and with Benjamin and Devin Funchess out wide, Greg Olsen down the seam and Shepard in the slot, this Panthers’ offense could be nearly unstoppable through the air.
Round 2: Kamalai Correa DE – Boise St.
One area that the Panthers need to address is at defensive end where they should look to find Charles Johnson’s eventual replacement. If they forego the position in the first a second round selection seems like a must and with the way things look right now Kamalei Correa may be the perfect fit there.
Correa has solid size, great speed and an explosiveness that oozes potential as a pass rushing threat in the pros. He’s a smart player who isn’t easily tricked by options and reverses, a big bonus in today’s NFL, and combines excellent tackling with great pursuit skills. Sometimes his speed and pursuit angles get the best of him and he overruns plays and his strength will need to improve if he hopes to be a consistent force, but as he is now, he’s an intriguing prospect for the Panthers to consider at end.
Round 3: Cyrus Jones CB – Alabama
He’s back in round three of the Panthers Mock Draft. The need for some additional young options at cornerback is still present and even with a nickelback in place, it can’t hurt to secure another as they could with Cyrus Jones.
Jones is a tough, quick, in-your-face type of slot corner that battles with receivers each and every play. He’s small in stature, which is his biggest knock, but certainly not in heart where he’ll go up against any opponent with no fear. His run defense needs work and he’ll need some time to adjust to the NFL’s receiving talent but Jones would be an excellent addition to the Panthers’ secondary.
Round 4: Sheldon Day DT – Notre Dame
With Dave Gettleman’s love for “hog mollies” always a topic of conversation, and a draft class that happens to be chock full of them, it will be no surprise to see another young defensive tackle added to the mix and Sheldon Day could be that player.
Day is an interesting prospect that is small and bulky but has the athleticism and quickness to be a versatile threat along the defensive line; perfect for the Panthers who love to rotate linemen. With that stocky but shifty skillset, Day has a unique talent of shedding blockers along the interior and penetrating up field. That size can haunt him too though as he has a habit of being overwhelmed by simple double teams but regardless, his skillset and natural abilities at the position make him a perfect target for Carolina in the middle rounds.
Round 5: Brandon Shell OT – South Carolina
Like at pass rusher, the Panthers need to find their left tackle of the future capable of providing consistent protection for Cam Newton in the coming years. And with the tackle talent lacking a bit in this draft they may need to resort to taking on a project player with potential like Brandon Shell.
Shell is an intriguing prospect with the build and look of an elite left tackle. He also has plenty of experience on both sides of the line against SEC level defenses, holding his own for much of his career. He’s extremely raw though and lacks the technical skill necessary for the position. You can’t teach size though and with the need not immediate the Panthers could afford to let him sit and develop.
Round 7: Lamarcus Brutus S – Florida St.
The safety position in Carolina will look slightly different next year with Tre Boston likely to take over alongside Kurt Coleman. But that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t look at potentially adding another young player at the position to compete and here, Lamarcus Brutus would be a worthwhile selection.
Brutus is a relatively unknown prospect coming out of Florida State in the shadow of Jalen Ramsey but has some talent of his own that should garner some attention. He’s an absolute workhorse who forced his way into the starting lineup and has solid technical skill and smarts for the position and is a great tackler. The main worry is that his lack of size (6’/200lbs) and speed will damper his technically sound positives but if anyone can work around that it’s Brutus and in the late rounds he could be a potential steal for Carolina.