For the Carolina Panthers, the last few seasons have been tumultuous to say the least. The number of quarterbacks on the payroll rivals the many digits of pi, and it feels like they've been through equal amounts of coaches, both assistant and head coaches. The Panthers are firmly entrenched in a long rebuild for the 2022 NFL season, but they can certainly find pride in the development of talent they've acquired in the draft.
Attention will naturally be drawn to the likes of sixth overall pick Ikem Ekwonu and third-round pick Matt Corral, but the Panthers drafted four other players and signed a host of undrafted free agents. One of those players who could make a real impact is Cade Mays. Selected at the Tom Brady position of 199th overall, Mays is in a position to get serious playing time as a rookie if he can impress this summer.
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Panthers Rookie Sleeper for 2022 NFL Season
Cade Mays has about as much pedigree as any guard in the draft. Playing for both Georgia and his hometown Tennessee, Mays may be best projected as a guard at the NFL level, but he saw significant playing time at all five positions on the offensive line while in college. That kind of versatility is going to make him a very popular man with coaches in Charlotte.
His transfer from Georgia to Tennessee means he also saw significant time and had success in both power run and zone blocking schemes, which is rare of any prospect, let alone one with the positional versatility Mays has as well. He may not be an incredible athlete, often lacking the kind of lateral speed to make up for missing with his initial move, but his ability to slot in anywhere the Panthers need him will increase his value before he even sets foot on the field for training camp. The Panthers had the 31st-ranked offensive line in the NFL in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus, so there are places up for grabs across the entirety of that line.
Even if Mays doesn't start right away, he's undoubtedly in a great place to earn significant reps if he can perform. If he can improve his footwork, he may provide the best guard partner Ikem Ekwonu could ask for, allowing the Panthers to have an entire side of their offensive line set. That bodes well for the future franchise passer, whoever it is at quarterback, Corral or other.
As mentioned, Mays does have things to work on, like his footwork and his tendency to duck his head when blocking, but those things can be corrected with coaching, reps, and time. With the state of the Panthers' offensive line coming into this season, Mays should have no problem getting plenty of all three.
One thing to watch closely, however, is how Mays adapts to a running back like Christian McCaffrey who's best used as a pass catcher out of the backfield. At Georgia his backs all ran downhill, and his offenses at Tennessee focused primarily on attacking through the air, though Mays did incredibly well blocking for Hendon Hooker's off-schedule scrambles in 2021.
All of these factors, his positional versatility, pedigree and scheme fit should allow Cade Mays to give a very good account of himself this summer leading into his rookie campaign in 2022. Panthers fans keep an eye on big No. 64 in training camp. He's a good one.