Round 1: Corey Coleman WR – Baylor
Wide receiver isn’t a top need in Carolina but the closer and closer it gets to draft day and the likelihood that General Manager Dave Gettleman will go with the best player available makes it an increasing possibility. A fair amount of the top receiver names should still be on the board at pick number 30 and if Corey Coleman is, the Panthers will land a major steal.
Coleman has been likened to a receiver that Carolina is all too familiar with in Steve Smith, and wouldn’t that be something. Coleman has the versatility to line up inside or out and is known for his blazing speed to take the top off of defenses. He has had issues with drops, which is something Carolina has overlooked with previously drafted receivers, and needs work as a route runner. But the thought of adding the next Steve Smith in the slot to an offense that already has Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess is downright terrifying.
Round 2: Derrick Henry RB – Alabama
More than likely, if the Panthers want Derrick Henry after round one they’ll need to be willing to part with some picks and trade up to get him. And that’s a very realistic move as we’ve seen the team do multiple times in recent seasons to get the guys they want.
Henry would certainly be worth the move. The thought of pairing a 6’3,” 250lb running back with the NFL MVP in the backfield is too great to pass up. Henry has an uncanny combination of size and speed and while his lateral quickness is pitiful, the Panthers run-first style of play and attacking run blocking would allow Henry to slide in perfectly. With the veteran Jonathan Stewart as a one-two punch, Henry would make Carolina’s offense a major threat to defend against.
Round 3: Harlan Miller CB – Southeastern Louisiana
The loss of Josh Norman makes the need for another cornerback even greater than it already was. And with Gettleman and company unlikely to reach for one in the early rounds, a player like Harlan Miller in the middle of the draft seems like a likely selection.
Miller has good height (6’0”) and length and even with a small-school background looks the part of an NFL corner. The Southeastern Louisiana product has excellent ball skills to pick off and deflect passes and the tenacity to mix it up with receivers. Miller is also a willing tackler against the run and displays great pursuit skills. Carolina isn’t afraid to draft players from outside the Power Five conferences and Miller could be a great mid-round selection to help shore up the secondary.
Round 4: Sheldon Day DT – Notre Dame
Gettleman and the Panthers love their “hog mollies” and with a need for depth along the interior of the defensive line, a player like Sheldon Day should certainly entice them in the middle rounds of this draft.
Day is a stout but strong interior defender. He has excellent versatility to play all over the line, a definite bonus in the Panthers’ defense, and the explosion and work ethic to make plays despite a lack in size. Day may have some difficulty adjusting to NFL caliber lineman but he’s certainly worth a look at and a possible selection with one of the team’s mid-round selections.
Round 5: Ronald Blair DE – Appalachian St.
Carolina should make it a point to look for their defensive end of the future to groom behind Charles Johnson for this year at least and with not many top options and plenty of other needs to address as well, a local player like Ronald Blair could very well be the choice.
Blair is an Appalachian St. product that has already visited with the team and has shown promise. He lacks the overall size (6’2”) and speed (5.15-forty time) for the position but makes up for it with excellent technical skill in terms of knee bend, pad height and first step. Not only is he technically sound but he also has terrific power to set the edge and is also a solid run defender. Blair’s size is concerning as he looks to make it in the NFL but if he works at perfecting his pass rushing skills, he could conceivably become a solid starter.
Round 7: Brandon Shell OT – South Carolina
In a draft class with a rather weak crop of offensive tackles the Panthers may have to get creative and try to find a developmental player to groom for a season or two until he’s ready to contribute. And South Carolina’s Brandon Shell would certainly be one option.
Shell looks the part of a starting NFL tackle with the size, length and athleticism that simply cannot be taught. He has plenty of experience on both sides of the line and held his own against the SEC’s best defenses for his entire career. Unfortunately, he lacks some of the technical skill for the position which also isn’t as easy to correct, but with the right amount of time and coaching Shell would be a low risk, high reward pick in the late rounds of this draft.