Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson aren't going to be around for much longer. Mario Addison is the only significant edge rusher on the roster right now that Carolina will have in the a couple of years, so the Panthers could go after a defensive end in the 2018 NFL Draft.
I've been moving Sam Hubbard around in my mock draft quite a bit. That's because he has great talent, but seldom lived up to it at Ohio State. However, he had a strong finish to his 2017 campaign, so he could still go in the first round.
Rd. 2, Pk. 23
Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
The secondary is the weak link of Carolina's roster. The Panthers need upgrades at both cornerback and safety.
Pick change; previously Jaire Alexander, CB
Rd. 3, Pk. 21
DeShon Elliott, S, Texas
The Panthers need to continue working on their secondary, as they've been hurting at safety for the past couple of years.
Pick change; previously Dallas Goedert, TE
Rd. 3, Pk. 24
Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
The Panthers could use another receiver to go along with Devin Funchess and Curtis Samuel, as Cam Newton's downfield options are pretty limited.
Rd. 5, Pk. 24
B.J. Hill, DT/3-4DE/NT, N.C. State
The Panthers are likely to lose Star Lotulelei in free agency this offseason, so here some depth for the interior.
It would make sense for the Panthers to give up one of their second-rounders to move up for Leonard Fournette. He could be phenomenal for Carolina and would match up well against some of the undersized defensive lines in the NFC South. If the Panthers don't move up for Fournette, I could see them taking McCaffrey given his running ability, great football character, and what he would bring to their passing attack.
In 2016, McCaffrey averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 37 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns through the air, too. McCaffrey also was a dangerous punt returner.
In my opinion, McCaffrey should have won the 2015 Heisman Trophy because he carried Stanford all season. McCaffrey was a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touched the ball. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field with vision, cutting ability and elusiveness. In 2015, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores.
McCaffrey (5-11, 202) looks undersized, but he still should be a first or second-rounder. Teams love his work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Demarcus Walker, DE/3-4OLB, Florida State
The Panthers grab an edge rusher to groom behind Julius Peppers.
In 2016, Walker totaled 68 tackles with those 16 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two passes batted. He caught fire in the second half against Ole Miss to record 4.5 sacks and help lead Florida State to a huge comeback win over the Rebels.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder broke out in 2015 with 10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, five passes broken up and 58 tackles. He was a tough edge rusher for the Seminoles. Sources told me that they were projecting Walker to the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft prior to him announcing he would return for his senior year.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
David Sharpe, OT, Florida
The Panthers could use a right tackle candidate considering the uncertain status for Michael Oher.
Sharpe was a solid left tackle for the Gators. He is a good run blocker and a better athlete with more quickness than one would think. Sharpe had a good first half against Tennessee's Derek Barnett before struggling in the second half.
For the NFL, Sharpe would probably be best as a guard or right tackle. As a sophomore in 2015, Sharpe saw action at both tackle positions. He was a good run blocker who flashed some pass-protection skills. Sharpe (6-6, 343) needs to improve his pass blocking for the NFL, but he has upside to develop. Sharpe needs to keep his weight in check and avoid lethargy.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
The Panthers could use a tight end to pair with, and develop behind, Greg Olsen.
In 2016, Hodges totaled 48 catches for 691 yards with seven touchdowns. He improved as a junior and could be one of the real value picks in the deep 2017 tight end class. In 2015, Hodges recorded 40 receptions for 530 yards and six scores. He was a redshirt freshman sensation for the Hokies in 2014 and produced the best year ever in terms of receiving production by a freshman tight end at Virginia Tech. The 2014 season saw him haul in 45 catches for 526 yards and six touchdowns.
Hodges (6-6, 257) needs to improve his blocking for the NFL, but he could be a taller version of a Jordan Reed-type tight end, or and even a Mike Evans-type receiver on the outside.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Travin Dural, WR, LSU
The Panthers grab some wide receiver depth.
Sources say that Dural had early round potential before a torn hamstring injury. Perhaps he will recover his speed and suddenness after getting further from the injury. In 2016, Dural had 28 receptions for 280 yards with one touchdown. He totaled 28 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2015, but also had two long touchdowns against Mississippi State called back on penalties. Even with inconsistent quarterback play in 2014, Dural was one of the SEC's breakout performers. He averaged 21 yards per catch with 37 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder plays larger than his size, yet has the quickness to make an impact downfield. Dural had the potential to produce more over his career, but LSU had awful quarterback play and kept the ball on the ground a lot.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval
The Panthers grab some tight end depth to go behind Greg Olsen.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Kyle Kalis, G, Michigan
The Panthers could take some interior offensive line depth and have shown interest in Kalis.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Tanner Vallejo, ILB, Boise State
The Panthers hosted Vallejo and could use some linebacker depth.
Not going to lie it was hard to determine where the receivers would go since I was a little off on how high they went this past draft, but with better talent at key positions at the top I can see the sliding a bit this season. For the Panthers who continue to retool their offense around Cam Newton finding a true do it all receiver can be a nice pick up. Especially, with how Kelvin Benjamin has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and Devin Funchess just being a down right disappointing pass catcher. I actually like the pick up of Curtis Samuel in the draft, but he figures to be a slot option. Kirk on the other hand can be an explosive play maker similar to OBJ up in New York. Combine that with Samuel and the threat of McCaffrey out of the backfield you actually have a modern day offense, instead of that ground and pound they had the past few seasons.
Last Weeks Selection: Mitch Hyatt OT Clemson
Carolina could use a young pass-rusher to replace Julius Peppers. <br> <br>
Hubbard has 30 tackles, two sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble in 2017. Last year, he collected 46 tackles with eight for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes batted. While rotating into the game as a sophomore, he showed his potential with 6.5 sacks. Hubbard also had 28 tackles with an interception that season. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder has a great skill set, but doesn't produce up to it. Hubbard has a serious combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that should help him to rise during the pre-draft workouts, however. Some team sources feel that Hubbard has been an underachiever and should have had a lot more production over his collegiate career.
Kelvin Benjamin is having weight issues, while Devin Funchess has done very little through two years. Here's a potential play-maker for Cam Newton. <br> <br>
In 2016, Sutton totaled 76 receptions for 1,246 yards - 16.5 yard average - with 10 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has size to him, and in 2015, he showed big-play ability by averaging 17.6 yards per catch. For the year, the redshirt freshman totaled 862 yards and nine touchdowns on 49 receptions. <br> <br>
Scouting sources really like Sutton and think he is a mismatch weapon. One playoff general manager said they loved Sutton and thought he could end up becoming the best receiver from his draft class. Another scouting director told WalterFootball.com that, in studying up on players before hitting the road for college training camps before the 2016 season, Sutton's tape really stood out, and he continued to impress them in 2016. Sutton is a long-strider, and sources say his speed is comparable to TCU's Josh Docton, who the Redskins took in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Panthers could use more receivers after trading away Kelvin Benjamin.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Washington can stretch teams vertically with his speed. Some team sources told me they graded him as a mid-rounder. Washington has a running back-like build and is not really twitchy. He is still deceptively fast, but that is speed he builds up rather than quick explosiveness. They say that Washington has good hands, but doesn't really make players miss after the catch. One team source said they graded Washington as a late fourth-rounder for the 2018 NFL Draft. <br> <br>
In 2017, Washington has 53 receptions for 1,158 yards and nine touchdowns. He made 71 receptions for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016. As a sophomore, he snagged 53 passes for 1,087 yards with 10 scores.
Carolina is old at safety, plus has Thomas Davis aging. Harrison could play safety, and also could grow into being Davis' replacement at linebacker. <br> <br>
In 2017, Harrison totaled 74 tackles with three interceptions, 2.5 sacks and four passes batted. He has played really well as an enforcer in the middle of the field. Aside from coverage issues, Harrison had a quality 2016 season as the strong safety when he totaled 86 tackles with seven passes broken up and two interceptions. <br><br>
Harrison (6-3, 216) is a tough run defender who has the athletic skills to cover, but he has issues covering receivers in man coverage. Team sources have said an example of that is Clemson's Hunter Renfrow really abusing Harrison in the past, and that is why Minkah Fitzpatrick served as the coverage safety for the Crimson Tide. Playing zone in the middle of the field is a better fit for Harrison. Because of some coverage limitations, Harrison is a strong safety type for the NFL.