The Carolina Panthers are entering the second year of the Matt Rhule era. In his first draft class, Rhule and the Panthers were the only team to use all their picks on defensive players. However, don’t expect that to be the same this year. After a 5-11 record in 2020, Carolina earned the eighth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at what the future holds for Carolina.
To help with this mock draft, I used The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Team Mock Drafts.
Round 1, Pick 8: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
It’s no secret that the Panthers want to upgrade at the quarterback position. They reportedly offered this pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. Furthermore, the Panthers have been one of the more aggressive teams trying to trade for Deshaun Watson. However, if all else fails, expect the Panthers to select a quarterback with their first-round pick. If Carolina stays at pick eight, expect Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones to be selected depending on how the top seven picks go. Teddy Bridgewater‘s contract has an easy out after the 2021 season, allowing Fields to sit for a year before taking over as the starter next season.
— NFL (@NFL) March 30, 2021
For more on Fields, check out our scouting report on him here.
Round 2, Pick 39: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
In his first season as the starter, Ian Thomas struggled. He totaled only 20 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown last season. Furthermore, Thomas is entering a contract year and isn’t a lock to make the Panthers’ final roster. Meanwhile, backup tight end Chris Manhertz signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. While the Panthers signed Dan Arnold, it is for only one season. It’s clear, Carolina needs more production out of their tight ends. During his first two seasons at Penn State, Freiermuth was unstoppable, totaling 15 touchdowns. The Panthers have plenty of dynamic wide receivers but lack a traditional red zone weapon. Drafting Freiermuth would give whoever is under center a go-to target in the red zone.
For more on Freiermuth, check out our scouting report on him here.
Round 3, Pick 73: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Last year the Panthers spent a fourth-round pick on Troy Pride Jr. While he had some ups and downs during his rookie season, Carolina believes Pride is a long-term starter. On the other side, Donte Jackson is entering a contract year and will likely want a massive contract extension. However, the depth behind them is thin and inexperienced. Campbell is a bigger cornerback at 6’2”. That’s exactly what the Panthers need in a division with Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas. Over his final two seasons at Georgia, Campbell had nine passes defended. While he is still developing, he should turn into a long-term starter for the Panthers. With Jackson potentially leaving next year, adding Campbell would provide the Panthers protection.
For more on Campbell, check out our scouting report on him here.
Round 4, Pick 113: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Over the past two drafts, the Panthers have invested plenty of draft capital in the defensive line. Last year they used their first-round pick on Derrick Brown and their second-round pick on Yetur Gross-Matos. In 2019, the Panthers used their first-round pick on Brian Burns. However, even after investing three prime draft picks in the defensive line, the Panthers still need help. Meanwhile, Wilson almost declared for the 2020 NFL Draft after his breakout 2019 season with 8.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. However, he struggled with injuries his senior year, and his draft stock suffered because of it. If Carolina gets the 2019 version of Wilson, they will have found themselves a 10-year starter in the middle rounds.
Round 5, Pick 151: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
Running back isn’t a critical need for the Panthers. However, last year Christian McCaffrey missed most of the season because of injuries. While he is far from injury-prone, the Panthers need to lighten his workload next season. However, Mike Davis signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, and the depth at running back is underwhelming. While the Panthers could sign a veteran back after the draft, using one of their day three picks would be the wiser move to make. In six games last season, Stevenson had seven rushing touchdowns and averaged almost seven yards per carry. Stevenson’s physical style of running would complement McCaffrey perfectly.
We gotta start talking about Rhamondre Stevenson in this draft cycle. The Oklahoma running back is a TANK that can scoot for a big man. He's a nightmare to tackle. I could see him being a target for a team late day two/early day three. pic.twitter.com/oYPVVmxvHf
— Zack Patraw (@NFL_Zack) January 10, 2021
For more on Stevenson, check out our scouting report on him here.
Round 6, Pick 193: Wyatt Hubert, EDGE, Kansas State
During the past couple of drafts, the Panthers have used prime draft capital on rushing the passer. While starters Burns and Gross-Matos have plenty of upside, the depth behind them is underwhelming. Meanwhile, Hubert didn’t get much media in college, but he was a force during his time at Kansas State. Over his three-year career, Hubert totaled 33 tackles for a loss and 20 sacks. While he may never turn into a full-time starter for the Panthers, expect Hubert to have a critical role as a rotational pass rusher as a rookie.
Round 6, Pick 222: Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson
While wide receiver isn’t a critical need on paper, the Panthers need to add one during the draft. After losing Curtis Samuel in free agency, the Panthers signed former Seattle Seahawk wide receiver David Moore. However, his contract has an easy out after the 2021 season. Furthermore, Robby Anderson is entering a contract year. With both receivers possibly playing elsewhere in 2022, the Panthers need to address the wide receiver position. Meanwhile, Powell had a breakout 2020 season in part due to the season-ending injury to Justyn Ross. He finished tied for first on the team with seven touchdowns and second with 882 receiving yards. If he plays well as a rookie, Powell could end up in a starting role in 2022.
“It looks like Cornell Powell hasn’t had a carb in a decade” 😂
Powell runs a 4.47
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 11, 2021
Round 6, Pick 226: Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
Even after drafting Campbell in the third round, the Panthers need more cornerback help. Between Jackson entering a contract year and the underwhelming depth, the Panthers would be wise to use a day three pick on a cornerback. Marco is the younger brother of former Indianapolis Colt and Florida Gator Quincy Wilson. However, the younger brother is coming off an impressive two-year run at Florida, totaling 65 tackles, three interceptions, and six passes defended. Much like Campbell, Wilson is a bigger cornerback. In a division full of big wide receivers, the Panthers can’t have too many good cornerbacks.