The Carolina Panthers are on the clock. After a 15-1 season in 2015, they watched as the bottom fell out in 2016 as their record flipped to the tune of 6-10 as they missed the playoffs. The team suffered a huge injury and a departure but to watch your season slip away like that has to be heartbreaking.
Cam Newton will be back and by the looks of things so will RB Jonathan Stewart. Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin are to make waves in the passing game but there is still help needed. On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers must get younger up front. They recently signed former player, Julius Peppers and resigned Charles Johnson and while that pair can produce it’s only a quick fix. So, what should the Panthers do in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft?
With 4 picks the Panthers must take advantage of a deep pool of defensive players and also address their need for help at the RB and WR position. Here are my selections for the Carolina Panthers 3 Round Mock NFL Draft.
Round 1 Pick 8
Jabrill Peppers-(S) Michigan
I hate to say it but the Panthers must stop the bleeding here. After taking a handful of DBs in the 2016 Draft they find themselves in the same position a year later. While many experts think they should go RB or DE here I disagree. The DL should hold up pretty well with the addition of Julius Peppers and the return of luke Kuechly. The Panthers were among the league leaders in sacks but it was the secondary that gave them issues. Peppers is agile enough to play the Safety position and also CB. Peppers helped spearhead one of the Nations best defenses last year with 72 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks and one forced fumble. Peppers will bring stability to a unit that sorely lacks direction.
Round 2 Pick 8 (40)
Curtis Samuel- WR/RB Ohio State
For all the talk of a RB, the Panthers better find Newton some targets to throw to. The team lost Ted Ginn and Corey Brown this offseason, leaving the heavy lighting to Greg Olson and Benjamin. Newton has been at his best when the ball has been spread around and with Ginn gone he will need someone with speed on the outside and slot. Samuel is as explosive as they come and if he is able to connect with Newton, we could be looking at the next Steve Smith. Last season for OSU Samuel had 74 receptions for 865 yards with seven touchdowns. On the ground, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry for 771 yards and eight scores. He’s a weapon.
Round 2 Pick 32 (64)
Taylor Morton- OT/G Western Michigan
The Panthers are still a run first team and with the right side of the side under construction, it’s time to look toward the future. Morton is a big body at 6-5, 330lbs and loves to run block. This is the type of body Stewart and Newton needs to open holes. Morton played right tackle as a sophomore before moving to right guard as a junior. He will join a line that has experience and should show no signs of not being able to adapt to the speed and power of the NFL.
Round 3 Pick 34 (98)
Marlon Mack- (RB) South Florida
The Panthers are not in complete dire need of a RB. This is still a veteran team that relies heavy on the run, and if Stewart can stay healthy and maybe they can sign a veteran in the offseason like Jamaal Charles they will be in good shape. However, it’s never too early to start building toward the future. Marlon Mack is not the big name back like Dalvin Cook that experts think the Panthers should take in the first round be he’s still just as dangerous between the tackles. In 2016, Mack averaged 7.1 yards per carry for 1,187 yards with 15 touchdowns, plus snatched 28 receptions for 227 yards. Mack has speed, he could cause problems if he breaks that first wave of defenders.