If the Carolina Panthers are to reclaim the NFC South, they must address the growing needs across the roster. The urgency to deliver in the 2019 NFL Draft is higher than ever.
The Carolina Panthers have the core to win it all but must address multiple holes on the roster. The window is closing, and the front office can ill afford any missteps in the 2019 NFL Draft. Using The Draft Network’s mock simulator, I ran several 7-round mock drafts for the Panthers. Below are the best picks that were most consistently available in each round.
Round 1, Pick 16: Andre Dillard, OT Washington State
The left tackle position has been a train wreck in Carolina. Poor play, a bad contract, and injuries forced the Panthers to release Matt Kalil. Carolina is ready and desperate to start fresh and give Cam Newton proper protection on his blindside. Enter Andre Dillard. Dillard played at left tackle for the entirety of his college career at Washington State, where he was named the country’s top pass-blocking tackle in his final season by Pro Football Focus College. Dillard followed his standout senior season by dominating the NFL combine. He posted high numbers across the board amongst offensive linemen, including a sub-five-second 40-yard dash.
There has been speculation of Taylor Moton or Daryl Williams moving to left tackle to fill the void. Neither should happen. Moton had a breakout 2018 season on the right side and could be the answer there for the future. Williams has incredibly inconsistent tape and should have to play his way back into a starting spot or perhaps experiment at left guard. The Carolina front office has been vocal in their intentions to protect Newton, and an early-round selection at left tackle is the best answer.
This pick is almost a lock to be between edge rusher or offensive lineman. With Montez Sweat and Brian Burns off the board, I found the best value to be at offensive linemen, as I believe there is a drop off at pass rusher in this draft after Sweat and Burns.
Round 2, Pick 47: Zach Allen, EDGE Boston College
If there is a more significant need than protecting Cam Newton, it’s rushing the passer. Mario Addison is the only quality starter on the roster at defensive end. The Panthers can not afford to put off the need to get younger at the edge position. Zach Allen is a workhorse defensive end that has the “Panther DNA” that Ron Rivera covets. Allen had the number one overall grade among ACC edge defenders according to PFF College. Allen can fit in as both a traditional 4-3 defensive end as well as kicking inside in the 3-4 scheme that Rivera will experiment with heading into 2019.
Round 3, Pick 77: Juan Thornhill, S Virginia
I expect Thornhill to move up draft boards as draft day approaches, but if he remains in this range, the Panthers will strike gold at safety. Thornhill was one of the best combine performers of any position and is one of the most instinctual defensive backs in the draft. He fits the Panthers’ Tampa 2 system to a tee, being a high IQ player that puts himself in the right positions with ball skills that translate to the NFL. I believe playing college ball in the weaker half of the ACC at a non-football school is the reason Thornhill is not being selected higher in mock drafts. Although the free safety position is less valuable in the Panthers’ scheme compared to single-high concepts, Thornhill is an ideal complement to the physical “box” safety role of Eric Reid and would finally bring youth to the position.
Round 3, Pick 100: Germaine Pratt, LB NC State
Linebacker is an underrated need for the Panthers, especially if they are to deploy more 3-4 looks. Pratt is a highly productive inside linebacker that showed his speed at the combine. He has excellent explosiveness and tackling abilities that are consistent with Panther linebackers, and learning under Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, could become a quality starter in the future.
Round 4, Pick 115: DaMarkus Lodge, WR Ole Miss
Another underrated draft need in Carolina is at outside receiver. Beyond Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore, there aren’t many quality targets for Cam Newton to throw to. A substantial threat on the outside could open up more options for the offense, such as bringing D.J. Moore into the slot where I think he can be more effective. Lodge has a lot of raw talent and could offer much-needed down-field threat ability for Cam Newton.
Round 5, Pick 155: Ben Burr-Kirven, LB Washington
The departure of Thomas Davis leaves linebacking depth thin. Burr-Kirven is undersized but could carve out a role on the outside in 3-4 sets. Ron Rivera would surely admire the competitiveness and collegiate success of Burr-Kirven, who was the heart and soul of one of the best defenses in college football.
Round 6, Pick 187: Saivion Smith, CB Alabama
Smith showed flashes of NFL potential at Alabama. He provides necessary depth down the depth chart at cornerback with some upside.