This offseason was supposed to be all about landing the franchise quarterback who could run the show for the Carolina Panthers. It didn’t happen. Or at least not yet.
On top of the trade swing-and-miss for Sam Darnold, general manager Scott Fitterer also dealt draft picks away to bring in C.J. Henderson and Stephen Gilmore. This left the team with just six total draft picks and none in the second or third rounds, leaving a 131 selection gap after the sixth pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
If coming out of the draft with a new QB1 is the top priority, this means taking one at No. 6 might be their best solution, yet with few other picks, a trade down has to be appealing. Especially with many other draft needs such as offensive tackle, edge rusher, offensive guard, linebacker, and safety as roster areas to address.
Before diving into our Panthers mock draft, let’s examine the current picks they own in the upcoming NFL Draft.
2022 Carolina Panthers draft picks
- 1st round: 6th overall
- 4th round: 137th overall
- 5th round: 144th overall, 149th overall
- 6th round: 199th overall
- 7th round: 242nd overall
Let’s dive into our 2022 Carolina Panthers mock draft. Future updates will include the possibilities of trading down, which would provide more capital for the front office.
Carolina Panthers mock draft: Helping now and later
At pick No. 6, the Panthers arguably have three decisions. Take a QB, take a left tackle, or trade down.
If they stay put, the Panthers can stay home on Day 2, as they won’t be back on the clock until Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Obviously this is not ideal, yet missing out on the chance to land one of their top-rated prospects likely cannot be afforded for this franchise with head coach Matt Rhule potentially on the hot seat. Let’s dive in.
*1st round, 8th overall: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- TRADE: Carolina Panthers trade 6th pick, No. 144, No. 242 to ATL for 8th pick, No. 43
With the Panthers desperate for more picks, yet needing to stay toward the top to secure a blue-chip player, the Atlanta Falcons could emerge as the perfect trade partner with the team also looking to add a QB. Sure, the Panthers are too, but they do at least have Darnold and finding a franchise left tackle is also a strong need, which could in turn help Darnold too. By adding the 41st pick too, it’s possible a talent such as Matt Corral or Desmond Ridder are still available, which still gives them a shot at landing a QB of the future in Carolina. Not bad, if it works.
As far as the Charles Cross pick, the Panthers don’t have a blindside protector. It doesn’t matter who’s under center if they’re constantly under pressure. Unless they trade for a veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo, coach Rhule would be setting up a young QB, whether Darnold or a rookie for failure with Cam Erving at left tackle in 2022 after allowing 31 pressures across just 348 pass-block snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.
It’s been said that Charles Cross is the best pass-blocking tackle among incoming draft prospects in this class, and after allowing just 16 pressures in 719 pass-blocking snaps (PFF) this past season, he’d be tough to ignore. One way this idea could blow up in our face is if Brady Christensen’s ready for the blindside role suddenly after seeing 480 snaps as a rookie.
*2nd round, 43rd overall: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
What a dream draft day scenario for Panthers fans. Not only do they secure a potential cornerstone left tackle, they also get to see if one of the top-hyped QB prospects can develop in the NFL. At one point Matt Corral was ranked higher than any other prospect taken ahead of him, the Panthers will gladly take the risk on him rediscovering that potential at the next level under their tutelage.
Corral has all the traits needed to become a franchise quarterback, and after running an RPO-heavy offense at Ole Miss, the Panthers might actually enjoy such an approach being that they have a strong rushing attack with Christian McCaffrey. Basically, the potential upside with Corral is much higher than that of Darnold in the Carolina offense going forward, but at this point, let the best man win.
Rounding out the Carolina Panthers mock draft
- 4th round, 137th overall: Damone Clark LB, LSU
- 5th round, 149th overall: Lecitus Smith, OG, Virginia Tech
- 6th round, 199th overall: Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State