Panthers Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

After one season, the Matt Rhule era is off to a tremendous start. That might not be showing up in the win column just yet. However, the Panthers are clearly headed back in the right direction after a couple of down years. In this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft, Carolina looks to upgrade at quarterback and the surrounding offensive positions while also using picks to fix the secondary.

Panthers Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

  • Round 1, Pick 8: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
  • Round 2, Pick 39: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
  • Round 3, Pick 73: Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss
  • Round 4, Pick 103: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
  • Round 5, Pick 134: Paris Ford, FS, Pittsburgh
  • Round 6, Pick 168 Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

Panthers 2021 7-round NFL Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

With the first pick in this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft, Carolina targets their quarterback of the future. Teddy Bridgewater was a pleasant surprise this season, but he’s not the long-term quarterback of the future. Enter Trey Lance, who might be the rawest of this draft’s top four quarterback prospects, but has an incredibly high ceiling the Panthers could build around for the coming decade.

Carolina would also be a perfect landing spot for the North Dakota State product. Bridgewater’s dead cap number of $20 million will likely be enough to prevent the Panthers from moving on from him entirely, and he has the skill set and experience to operate as an ideal “bridge quarterback,” which is exactly what Lance needs right now.

Other quarterback-needy teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets will have to throw their rookie quarterback directly into the crucible of the NFL. The Panthers have the luxury of giving Lance either an entire season or at the very least a couple of weeks, to adjust to the speed of the game.

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That adjustment will be a massive one, as the closest thing Lance has seen to an NFL defense so far in his career was an FCS championship game against James Madison University. However, that lower level of competition and the fact Lance only has one year of starting experience are the only major knocks on his play.

Trey Lance’s strengths and weaknesses

Lance is a raw prospect, and that shows up on film. He’ll occasionally make a read early on a play and get locked into that decision. Working through his progressions is far from being a strong suit. Another question mark is his mechanics. They aren’t completely refined, and as a result, he’ll sometimes have bad ball placement.

With that said, those knocks seem incredibly nitpicky when looking at the upside potential. Lance does need to work on progressing through reads, but his decision making is impeccable. In his only full year starting, he threw for 28 touchdowns on 287 attempts and didn’t throw an interception. He scored 42 touchdowns in total and only turned the ball over once on a fumble. That sounds like a dink-and-dunk king, but it’s not. Lance has shown no issues with taking the deep shot when the opportunity arises. He’s just smart about when to take those chances.

He also might be the best athlete at the position in the class. That’s impressive considering who the other QBs in the class are. It’s hard not to have flashbacks of Deshaun Watson when watching Lance play. Neither should create as many missed tackles as they do, but they just have an innate sense for how to make defenders miss.

But it’s not just his legs. Lance’s arm talent is terrific, both in terms of his ability to launch a rocket downfield, and in terms of throwing with touch and being able to attack all levels of a defense.

Give him to the Panthers, and watch Matt Rhule’s squad soar.

Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

Carolina could use some help in the secondary after ranking 23rd in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA metric. Donte Jackson is an above-average starter with upside, and Troy Pride Jr. was a pleasant surprise as a rookie. To continue the rebuild of that unit, the Panthers select Asante Samuel Jr. with their second pick in this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft.

There are questions about Samuel’s ability to play zone coverage or press coverage. However, he’s one of the best pure man-coverage cornerbacks in the draft. He does a great job of sticking to his man, feeling the route, and utilizing his leverage to win reps. Samuel has the physical ability to hang with NFL receivers in man coverage consistently, but he’s also mature beyond his years in the mental side of the game. He also a nose for contact, which is a trait that feels right up Coach Rhule’s alley.

While there are questions about his ability in zone and press coverage, those concerns don’t have to do with a failure to operate in those coverages. Instead, he just wasn’t asked to play much zone or press coverage at Florida State. That might not bother some teams, but the Panthers play zone a good deal. Considering the physical and mental traits he’s already displayed, Samuel should be able to play zone, although that isn’t a given.

His lack of experience in press is more of a concern, though. Many of Samuel’s looming questions surround his lack of play strength. He certainly isn’t averse to contact, but he also has a slight enough frame that he struggles when he’s asked to guard stronger receivers.

Those concerns are valid, but he’d still be a marvelous No. 2 cornerback alongside Jackson and Pride in a rebuilt Panthers secondary.

Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss

Before Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, the Carolina Panthers’ offense was about Greg Olsen and Cam Newton. We grabbed our Newton replacement already, so let’s find our replacement for Olsen with the third pick in this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft.

Kenny Yeboah might not be Olsen, but he’ll be a big upgrade over Carolina’s current tight end room. The only tight ends currently on the roster are Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Colin Thompson, and Tommy Stevens. The Panthers should keep Thomas as a part of the offense. That said, he’s better suited to be a high-end No. 2 as opposed to a starter.

Yeboah would continue to add speed to a lightning-quick offense that already features elite athletes at every other skill position. He can stretch the seam on play-action, opening lanes for those other skill players. He can also be an elite red zone target. In an ideal world, the Panthers would use him very similarly to how we’ve seen the New York Giants utilize Evan Engram. That means lining him up out wide, in the slot, and anywhere else Joe Brady can think of to create a mismatch.

Plus, as an added bonus, he started his college career at Temple after being recruited there by Rhule.

The big problem for Yeboah right now is he offers very little as a blocker and might never even be average in that area. He can certainly improve his technique and become a more refined blocker, but his narrow frame will continue to hold him back. That’s why it’s nice that the Panthers have the larger, sturdier Thomas at TE to serve as a counterbalance.

Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

The Panthers need to add a tackle in this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft, but up until now, the value wasn’t there. Landing Teven Jenkins at this point in the fourth round is a complete steal, though.

Russell Okung is over-the-hill, the Greg Little experiment hasn’t worked out at all, and Matt Kaskey is replacement-level at best. That’s not an ideal tackle situation to put either Bridgewater or a first-round rookie behind. Adding Jenkins would go a long way toward fixing that problem.

Jenkins is a large, imposing mauler on Oklahoma State’s offensive line. He is regularly able to bully opposing defensive linemen with sheer strength alone. That was especially true against Texas and potential first-round edge rusher Joseph Ossai this season. In one play reminiscent of a scene out of the film “The Blind Side,” Jenkins pushes Ossai off the field and onto the sidelines. If it weren’t for the whistle, he might not have stopped until he brought him all the way back to Austin.

Jenkins doesn’t just rely on strength, though. As a three-year starter, he understands the technical side of blocking. That technique shows up in his hand usage. Once he gets his hands on a defender, they’ve already lost the rep most of the time.

The concern with Jenkins comes down to his movement skills. He struggles to get back into his pass sets at times, especially against faster edge defenders. He also isn’t great at reaching the second level and operating as a blocker in space. That’s less than ideal for an offense that relies heavily on speed, but Jenkins is way too talented and fills too big of a need for Carolina to pass on him here.

Paris Ford, S, Pittsburgh

After adding Jeremy Chinn last year and Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round of this 7-round Panthers 2021 NFL Mock Draft, Paris Ford is the final piece towards rebuilding Carolina’s secondary.

The Panthers need a rangy safety that can play single-high. Chinn could spend more time around the line of scrimmage, where he is best suited, with a rangy safety over the top. Ford is a great selection to fill that role, especially this late in the draft. Before he opted out of the season, Ford got buzz as a top-50 pick, so landing him here is an unbeatable value.

He’s got all the athletic tools for the position with great top speed, acceleration, and hip fluidity. Ford plays with urgency and is always quick to the ball. Plus, when he gets there, he isn’t afraid of contact whatsoever. His ability to come up and make a physical play is one of his most enticing traits.

Ford hasn’t yet learned how to play as a deep zone defender, which the Panthers would ask him to do. That said, he has all the traits to thrive in that role. Ford might need patience in order to fully develop. One similar example would be what Denver did with Justin Simmons, and the payoff has been massive there.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

The Panthers should be set with their top receivers — D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel. However, Samuel’s contract expires this offseason, and Anderson’s expires next year. Adding Terry would provide depth in the short-term and maybe a potential replacement for Anderson later on.

Much like Anderson, Terry is a tall and long receiver that specializes in attacking downfield. His long speed is terrific, and he’s gifted at creating separation when he breaks his route off.

Terry’s big hurdle will be his ball skills, which is a sizable red flag for a receiver. Drops are a major problem with Terry, and he’ll have to put in a lot of sweat equity to fix it. He also doesn’t attack the ball in the air aggressively enough. That is problematic when you’re a deep receiver that will have to make contested catches often.

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