The Carolina Panthers are in the middle of an important offseason. Head coach Matt Rhule is on the hot seat. There’s tons of pressure on the Panthers to have a winning season in a weak NFC South division. Building that winning season started in free agency, and it continues in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Panthers have plenty of needs as the draft approaches, so they should be one of the more entertaining teams to keep track of on draft day. This Carolina Panthers mock draft was constructed using PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator. 

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R1/6th pick: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State

This pick is an absolute no-brainer. The Panthers had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year, and it showed in both the run and the pass games. The front office has already made signings at guard and center to help fix that problem, but they haven’t addressed the tackle position yet. That’s likely because general manager Scott Fitterer is preparing to spend a premium pick on a left tackle. Charles Cross may be the best tackle of the bunch. He’s consistent in all facets of the game, and he’s absolutely a day-one starter for the Panthers at one of the most important positions on the field. An elite player at a position of need is the definition of a slam-dunk pick for Carolina.

R4/137th pick: LB Terrel Bernard, Baylor

Unfortunately, the Panthers will have to wait quite a while before making their second selection. Luckily, Terrel Bernard should still be on the board when Carolina uses their fourth-round pick. Bernard is an undersized linebacker who excels in coverage. He should also become an immediate contributor to the Panthers on special teams. Carolina just signed Cory Littleton to fill this exact role, but he’s only on a one-year deal. Bernard should be able to contribute in that capacity throughout his first four years in the NFL. There is some injury history to be concerned with, but he’s well worth a fourth-round pick.

R5/144th pick: OT Zach Tom, Wake Forest

The Panthers should still be looking to add pieces to the offensive line even after selecting Cross. Here’s where Zach Tom comes in. Tom started at left tackle for the Demon Deacons despite being severely undersized. He excelled, particularly in pass protection, despite his physical limitations.

Tom will likely have to move back to the interior in the NFL, but that’s not a bad thing. He clearly has the versatility to play anywhere on the offensive line, a quality that the Panthers should covet. Selecting Tom in the fifth round is also excellent value for their pick. He may not start during his first couple of seasons, but Tom should provide quality play as a backup across both guard spots and the center position.

R5/149th pick: CB Cordale Flott, LSU

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This pick is based purely off of potential. The Panthers have plenty of cornerbacks on the roster. Flott isn’t ready to play in his rookie year. However, there’s a chance that Flott ends up developing into a fantastic cornerback. All the physical attributes are there, as he has the coveted speed and length that all coaches look for. His motor is endless, and he can play outside and in the slot. However, he’s a little too small weight-wise to be trusted right now. If Flott is able to put on some muscle and work on the more technical aspects of his game, there’s a chance he turns into a very solid player.

R6/199th pick: S Percy Butler, Louisiana

The Panthers are surprisingly thin at safety. There aren’t many options behind starters Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods, making Percy Butler a nice late-round selection. Butler is obviously nowhere near ready for a big role on defense, but that could come with time.

He’s a big hitter with solid range and zone coverage ability. His biggest downfall is his suspect tackling, an issue that could keep him off the field in the NFL. Even if he doesn’t make an impact as a defender, Butler will become a core special teamer for the Panthers. He filled that role throughout his career with Louisiana, and there’s no reason to think that will change in the NFL. At the very least, Carolina gets an elite special teams player with this pick.

R7/242nd pick: DL LaBryan Ray, Alabama

The last round of the draft is all about taking chances on potential. That is exactly what the Panthers would be doing with this pick. Ray is a former five-star recruit who could never quite get it all together at Alabama. A slew of injuries cost him tons of playing time, and he was never able to really put everything together. However, he did show flashes of solid play during his time on the field, particularly against the run. He’s worth taking a shot on with a seventh-round pick to see if he can stay healthy and realize his potential in any meaningful way.

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PFF Grade: A-

Overall, this would be a pretty decent draft for the Panthers. They don’t have a ton of picks to work with, but they still managed to add a starting left tackle, a key offensive line backup, and a core special teamer in this scenario. Not bad for a team that only has one pick in the top 100.