Round 1: Mackensie Alexander CB – Clemson
With the recent, shocking news that the Panthers have rescinded the tag on Josh Norman and made him a free agent, the need for a corner is even greater than it already was. The top corners in this class are likely to be long gone by the 30th pick but one talented player that has seen his stock drop a bit that could be the answer for Carolina is Mackensie Alexander.
Alexander was tremendous in the last few seasons for Clemson essentially shutting down an entire half of the field. In fact, one knock on him is his lack of statistical support, a by-product of not being thrown against. He has solid ball skills and plays with a fiery personality, able to elevate his play against top notch opponents. The Panthers have already met with Alexander and with his skill set he should certainly be in consideration for their first round choice.
Round 2: Shilique Calhoun DE – Michigan St.
At some point in this draft, Carolina needs to address their future at defensive end in order to help out their pass rushing situation. With the top options unlikely to be available in the first, the Panthers will need to try to get one in the middle rounds and in any way they can they should try to nab Shilique Calhoun.
Calhoun is a beast physically with all the traits and measurables that make a top pass rusher. He combines solid speed with a surprising amount of power and has the leadership qualities and resume to support his physical traits. He plays inconsistently at times, so much so that he’s a projected mid-round pick. But with a need and a chance to add a player to develop for the future at defensive end, Calhoun should be their pick.
Round 3: Cyrus Jones CB – Alabama
Down not just another cornerback, but arguably one of the league’s best, Carolina should try to add as many quality picks at the position as possible. And Alabama’s Cyrus Jones is a guy they’d likely love to have.
Jones is a workhorse who makes up for his severe lack of size by playing with aggression and taking on any opponent in his way. He possesses great coverage skills in the slot and has the quickness to make plays in the short yardage game. His size is a concern and thus his run support needs work, but Carolina should keep an eye on Jones throughout this draft.
Round 4: C.J. Prosise RB – Notre Dame
The Panthers don’t have a pressing need for a running back as they have a solid stable of backs. But Jonathan Stewart is starting to get up there in age and Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne haven’t showed they could be lead backs. Thus, adding a do-it-all runner like C.J. Prosise would be an excellent choice in this draft.
Prosise truly can do it all and is seen as one of this drafts best, yet underrated, three down running backs. Not only does he have the athleticism and build to be a constant contributor, but he also has the hands to provide yet another weapon out of the backfield. His pass protection needs some real work and he lacks adequate decision making but the natural traits are there and he may wind up as a steal for whoever picks him.
Round 5: Sheldon Day DT – Notre Dame
It’s no surprise that GM Dave Gettleman loves his defensive tackles and in such a deep class it almost an absolute that he grabs another here. And if he waits til the middle rounds to do so, Sheldon Day would be quite a catch.
Day is a unique talent at the position with a short, stocky build that packs a punch in terms of both power and speed. He’s proven to be a high energy player capable of bursting through the interior of the line and make plays against the run and pass. There are concerns with inconsistency and size, but with his work ethic and natural abilities, Day looks like a perfect Panthers-type player.
Round 7: Denver Kirkland OT – Arkansas
The offensive line depth in this draft class is not great. After the first three or four players at the position, it’s a lot of developmental picks that will need some work. Carolina doesn’t need an immediate starter on the line but they should be looking to add a potential replacement for Michael Oher at left tackle and Denver Kirkland has some intriguing traits to consider.
Kirkland is a massive force on the line and the kind of power and punch that gets teams excited. He’s a mauler with his run blocking, a bonus for a Panthers lineman, and is able to utilize angle to make up for his lack of quickness and overall athleticism on the edge. As a late round prospect he obviously needs to correct more than a few technical issues though but with the proper amount of time and coaching, Kirkland could be what the Panthers are looking for.