The Carolina Panthers are trying to get back to the postseason in 2019. Here’s a look at the first handful of draft picks that could help the team make it there.
The 2018 Panthers started the year on a tear. Carolina jumped out to a 6-2 record before injuries exposed their weaknesses resulting in a dismal 7-9 final record.
The below .500 record landed Carolina the 16th spot in the first round of the 2019 draft.
With those weaknesses exposed for all to see, they need to attack the NFL Draft with a hands-on, proactive approach to building for the present and the future, and come away much stronger as a result.
Here’s a look at the first handful of picks in a 2019 seven round Carolina Panthers mock draft.
With the 16th pick in the First Round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…
Montez Sweat, Defensive End, Mississippi State
Does anyone remember Starlite Lotulelei, otherwise known as Star Lotulelei?
He was a projected top five overall pick until a health scare with his heart came to light.
They say the more things change the more they stay the same.
Six years later the Panthers find themselves in a similar position needing a top instant-impact player and word emerges that they have a heart condition.
The tumble begins, and he falls past teams who have similar needs at defensive end into the middle range.
Panther fans watch as he falls past the Dolphins who take Clelin Ferrell, the Atlanta Falcons, who opt for Noah Fant and finally the Redskins who draft a quarterback, leaving a top ten pick ripe for the taking.
Montez Sweat brings size, speed, and athleticism to a Panthers team desperately in need of a pass rush, particularly in the high-octane NFC South division.
Any of his weaknesses can be treated by coaching, and his film proves that while he plays hard, smart and is open to being coached.
The fearsome defense Carolina is known for is about to be reborn like the Phoenix, but they aren’t done yet.
With the 47th pick in the Second Round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…
Juan Thornhill, Safety, Virginia
Earlier this off-season, I projected the Carolina Panthers’ boldest and most realistic moves that could be made in Free Agency was the resigning of strong safety Eric Reid and offensive tackle Daryl Williams.
Both those moves came to pass, with both returning with a three and a one year deal respectively.
Those moves, along with bringing in center Matt Paradis set the Carolina Panthers up nicely for the draft.
Here in round two, they massively upgrade both their depth at safety as well as their starting safety tandem and secondary overall.
Those are very much needed in the NFC South division.
Juan Thornhill is a small school prospect who has pretty much slipped under the radar despite consistent solid performances throughout his entire college career.
Like 2016 second round pick James Bradberry, he would be a first-round pick if he went to a more prominent college.
A two-sport athlete with tremendous ability and athleticism, he provides the length and coverage skills needed to complement the hard-hitting run supporting safety Eric Reid perfectly.
He improved year to year in college and would provide an instant upgrade over current projected starter Colin Jones as well as the recently released long-in-the-teeth Mike Adams.
He is ranked by many the best free safety of the draft class and the second-best safety of the class overall.
An absolute steal in day two, he will make 31 other teams regret not drafting him immediately, particularly being a thorn in the side of the Saints, Falcons, and Buccaneers who will have to contend with him twice a year for the next four years at least.
With the 77th pick in the Third Round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select…
Yodny Cajuste, Offensive Tackle, West Virginia
As mentioned earlier, the 2018 Carolina Panthers were riding high with a 6-2 record before their offensive line’s weakness was exposed and resulted in an injury to Cam Newton that sent the team and season into a tailspin.
They made moves to fix that weakness in free agency, and here in round three, they make another move taking a player who’s career NFL projection is at left tackle.
Yodney Cajuste was the last of the top offensive tackle prospects available at this point, and while he is considered a low top ten offensive tackle, he is regarded as one of the top left tackles of the draft class, which is exactly what the Panthers need.
This is a player who is boom or bust; if he doesn’t make it at his projected left tackle position, he likely won’t make it anywhere else.
He also has injury concerns from the 2016 season, which is a big reason he slid as far as he did.
A healthy Cajuste is considered a second-round prospect and with him there for the taking at pick 77, it’s impossible to ignore his value, upside, and the fulfilling of a need for Carolina.
His playing style meshes well with offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offensive scheme, and he will help Newton have more time to throw.
Speaking of giving Cam time to throw that leads to the next third round pick who improves the offense and offers Newton another weapon. He also can help the Panthers in the field position battle.
With the 100th pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select….
Mecole Hardman, Wide Receiver, Georgia
Pick 100 is a special one that fulfills not one, not two, but three needs the Panthers have.
Cam Newton is all smiles as day two of the NFL Draft comes to a close, as he is given more of a fighting chance by his team.
Most people would be ecstatic to run a 4.33-second forty-yard dash. Not the case for Hardman, who was reportedly upset with his self despite his incendiary top five overall time.
Hardman is one of the most electric weapons in the NFL Draft class. He uses his speed and fluidity to stretch the field from the slot, and also shows promise on deep balls.
Additionally, his ability in space can be utilized in the run-pass option offense, which means he is extremely useful in Norv Turner’s offense.
Hardman’s field vision and elusiveness allow him to be one of the best kick and punt return prospects in the NFL Draft.
He averaged 15.2 yards per punt return and 25 yards per kick return in college. His career projection is either Tyler Lockett or a lesser Tyreek Hill.
With Hardman at slot, Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore flanking the outside receiver spots, and the ever-electric Christian McCaffrey lining up and receiving catches out of the backfield, the Carolina Panthers would have a lightning fast receiving corps that few other offenses would have and no existing NFL secondary can match speed with.
That wraps up the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft for Carolina. Stay tuned as we get ready to project the final four rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft for the Carolina Panthers.