Carolina Panthers 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Michael Mayer, Others Support First-Round QB

In the latest Panthers NFL Mock Draft, Carolina brings in a new corps of young players, headlined by a talented QB prospect with the tools to build around.

The Carolina Panthers‘ fruitless Super Bowl appearances in 2003 and 2015 have haunted them. This Panthers NFL Mock Draft might be the first stepping stone in getting back to the big game. It’ll take time, but building the proper corps in the 2023 NFL Draft could prove crucial. In this scenario, simulated trades were active among other teams via the Mock Draft Simulator, but the Panthers held steady and did not make any moves.

Latest Carolina Panthers 2023 NFL Mock Draft

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky | Round 1, Pick 9

The Panthers are one of the few “quarterback-or-bust” teams in Round 1 this year. Some organizations have a little bit of flexibility, but Carolina doesn’t. It has to be a QB this year — both to properly reset the franchise’s clock and to add a high-upside passer worth building around.

If the Panthers stay put at ninth overall, they might not get their first choice. Of the four top quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft, Will Levis is the most flawed. That said, he does have the athleticism, arm talent, and toughness worth betting on, and there are ways to ease his NFL transition early on.

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame | Round 2, Pick 39

Remember when I said there were ways to ease Levis’ NFL transition? And then you probably asked for me to elaborate? Well, this is one of those ways. No matter what, and no matter who the QB pick is, they’ll need weapons and protection. A safety blanket across the middle of the field, in particular, could be very valuable.

MORE: Top Tight Ends in the 2023 NFL Draft

Michael Mayer is the favorite to be the first TE off the board, and he might not leave Round 1. But we see high-level prospects fall every year, and positional value can be a source for those falls. If he makes it to 39th overall, Carolina shouldn’t hesitate. Mayer can be a target funnel for a decade-plus, in the mold of Jason Witten.

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois | Round 2, Pick 60

Jaycee Horn is quickly developing into an All-Pro caliber talent — an expected trajectory for the arguable CB1 in the 2021 NFL Draft class. However, alongside Horn, the Panthers have plenty of questions at cornerback. They’ll need to address the position this winter, and Devon Witherspoon can help with that two-fold.

Witherspoon could end up being a top-50 pick, but in a deep CB class, he could just as easily slide to the bottom of Round 2. He’d be a slam dunk selection for Carolina here. Not only is he fast, twitchy, insanely physical, and instinctive, but Witherspoon also has the versatility to cover the slot and the boundary.

Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh | Round 3, Pick 92

The Panthers do have other needs remaining. But at the tail end of Round 3, after picking Levis in Round 1, it could be prudent to acquire a potential workhorse running back. Especially with the offensive line coming together, this could be a high-upside move right away. With Israel Abanikanda, that upside is compounded.

Abanikanda is 5’11”, 215 pounds. He’s an extremely dense, compact back with exceptional contact balance and leg churn. He finishes forward, exudes physicality, and can roll through congestion. Abanikanda is also one of the most explosive backs in the class — if not the most.

Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah | Round 4, Pick 111

The breakout of Frankie Luvu as a legitimate quality starter at LB was a pleasant surprise for Carolina in 2022. His production at the second level gives the Panthers another piece to build around. The unit as a whole, however, could use more fine-tuning, especially with both Shaq Thompson and Damien Wilson being potential cut candidates.

Mohamoud Diabate is an intriguing fit in this defense. Alongside Luvu, he’d be freed up to serve what might be his best role. At 6’4″, 222 pounds, Diabate is an elite athlete with explosiveness, length, and flexibility. He can play in space and cover, but attacking downhill, he can be especially dangerous.

Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue | Round 4, Pick 128

DJ Moore’s presence will be big for Levis in the immediate timeline, and Mayer helps as well. But the Panthers still need to make their WR rotation deeper and more potent. Terrace Marshall Jr. flashed his upside late in 2022, but he’s still far from a sure thing, as is Shi Smith.

In Round 4 of this Panthers NFL Mock Draft, Charlie Jones is exactly what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for stability and reliability. There’s not a particularly dominant area of Jones’ game, but he’s a superb route runner and separator with smooth athleticism and high-level instincts at the catch point.

Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati | Round 5, Pick 142

Why add just one wide receiver when you can add two? At this point in our latest Panthers NFL Mock Draft, we’ve lightened the load on Levis’ shoulders a bit. But in the modern NFL, your WR rotation can never be too deep. And the dynamic ability that Tyler Scott provides is difficult to pass on in Round 5.

Scott isn’t quite the technician that Jones is at this point and not quite as sturdy. But at 5’11”, 185 pounds, Scott has elite explosiveness and legitimate 4.4 speed downfield. He can stress DBs vertically very quickly off the snap and has the twitch to offset defenders and create space.

Ikenna Enechukwu, EDGE, Rice | Round 7, Pick 225

The Panthers have one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Brian Burns. Outside of Burns, however, the cupboard is relatively bare. In Round 7, you’re not likely to strike a diamond — but the odds are never zero. Ikenna Enechukwu is one late-round defender worth gambling on.

In Round 7, Enechukwu offers the ideal physical upside at a premier position. He’s 6’4″, 267 pounds, with near-34″ arms, and he brings visible explosiveness and power on tape. At times, Enechukwu fits the “bull in a china shop” analogy. He’s reckless and inefficient at times with his hands, but he’s a violent, tools-rich lineman with some alignment versatility.

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