The Carolina Panthers have not been quiet during the 2021 NFL offseason, splitting money in free agency between potential starters in the trenches and then, just this week, dealing a trio of picks to the Jets in exchange for former first-round quarterback Sam Darnold. But now that they've shuffled the most important position on the roster, what lies ahead? There's still plenty of work to do through this month's draft. Beyond pick No. 8, Carolina will have six other selections to build around its new signal-caller. Which rookies could be on the Panthers' radar? Which positions will they prioritize?
Here's one stab at how the Panthers' entire 2021 draft will play out:
Note: One of the Panthers' three sixth-round picks has been removed, as Carolina has reportedly agreed to deal one of them to New York as part of the Sam Darnold trade.
|Round (Overall Pick)||Prospect||College|
OT Rashawn Slater
CB Tyson Campbell
QB Kellen Mond
WR Marlon Williams
TE Tre' McKitty
|6 (222)||DT O'Bryan Goodson||Memphis|
|6 (226)||CB Nick McCloud||Notre Dame|
Could quarterback still be in play at No. 8, even with Darnold in tow? Never say never, especially considering it's very possible that at least one of Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones will still be available by the time the Panthers on the clock. General manager Scott Fitterer also seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't mind a major double-dip at such a position of importance. But the Panthers also just traded three picks for Darnold, as well as exercised his fifth-year option. You don't do that unless you're at least mildly convinced he can be the guy. So instead of moving back up or standing pat for a potential second QB addition, we've got them putting protection in front of Darnold and taking arguably the most NFL-ready tackle of the entire class.
Campbell, in the second round, would help fill a dire need at cornerback, where Carolina has a pair of relatively big names in Donte Jackson and Rashaan Melvin, but needs more results starting in 2021. Mond, meanwhile, feels like the perfect kind of mid-round investment at QB. Didn't we just get done defending the idea of building around Darnold? Well, yes. But there's a difference between spending a No. 8 pick and a No. 73 pick on another passer, and Mond's dual-threat potential would give the Panthers a high-upside fallback plan, not to mention a replacement for the likely-to-be-jettisoned Teddy Bridgewater.
Williams and McKitty would offer long-term potential to two key skill positions lacking depth. At wide receiver, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson make a rock-solid one-two punch. But with Curtis Samuel gone and Dan Arnold headlining the tight end group, the Panthers could use more play-makers. Goodson and McCloud, meanwhile, would offer offseason competition on the young defense.