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Carolina Panthers mock draft: Full 7-round projections after Teddy Bridgewater trade

In this seven-round Carolina Panthers mock draft, the team deviates from last year's all-defense strategy to build around new quarterback Sam Darnold.

Matt Fitzgerald

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Let’s be honest: any Carolina Panthers mock draft over the past several months that didn’t feature a quarterback being taken in the first round felt unrealistic.

That is, until Carolina traded for Sam Darnold, which eliminated the necessity to spend a first-rounder on one of the top signal-callers in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Teddy Bridgewater trade to the Denver Broncos does very little to change the dynamics here outside of Carolina adding a sixth-round pick and potentially looking for a quarterback late in the draft.

Ideally, Carolina can stay put at eight and still get a high-quality player now that moving up for a QB is no longer required. They can also trade down with a quarterback-needy team such as the New England Patriots. Here’s a look at our latest Panthers seven-round mock, which came about from The Draft Network’s simulator.

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  • Carolina Panthers mock draft trade: Panthers send eighth pick to the Patriots for 15th pick, second-round pick and 2022 first-round pick

We focused previously on a report that the Panthers were talking about a blockbuster trade with New England. The idea would be for the Patriots to move up for one of Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. In doing, so they would have to pay a pretty penny. This scenario has Carolina picking up a Round 2 selection in 2021 and the Pats’ first-round pick in 2022.

Carolina Panthers mock draft: Blockbuster trade, support for Sam Darnold

Carolina Panthers mock draft: Support for Sam Darnold in Rounds 1-3
Dec 1, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young (2) rushes the line (2) in the first half against Northwestern Wildcats lineman Rashawn Slater (70) in the Big Ten conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
  • First round, 15th pick: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
  • Second round, 39th pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
  • Second round, 46th pick: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
  • Third round, 73rd pick: Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

If the Panthers stick at No. 8, they could still choose between North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Ohio State star Justin Fields if things play out a certain way. However, due to their two-year commitment to Sam Darnold, it’s probably wise to just build around him as much as possible and see what they have. Trading down adds another layer to this.

Rashawn Slater is a great place for this Carolina mock draft to start in Round 1. Slater is among the highest-floor prospects in this class, and has the flexibility to play legitimately any position on the offensive line. If Greg Little can’t cut it at left tackle — and it looks like he can’t — Slater could definitely push for the starting job by Week 1. Otherwise, he’d be a massive upgrade at guard.

Now that the Panthers add another second-round selection the hypothetical trade with New England, they can find a potentially dynamic receiving threat in Terrace Marshall Jr. The former LSU standout. The 6-foot-3 receiver tallied a combined 94 receptions for north of 1,400 yards in his final two college seasons and would be a tremendous fit opposite D.J. Moore.

With the selection acquired from New England, the Panthers add perhaps the best slot cover guy in the entire 2021 NFL Draft — Asante Samuel Jr. He was a dominant performer during his career at Florida State and can even play outside despite his short stature.

In the continued effort to maximize Darnold’s chances for success, nabs former Boston College standout tight end Hunter Long in Round 3. He’s already seen as a pro-ready receiver who could excel in the red zone and would act as an immediate upgrade over what the Panthers currently have.

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Carolina Panthers mock draft: Depth and value intersect on Day 3

Carolina Panthers mock draft: Depth and value intersect on Day 3
Jan 28, 2021; Mobile, Alabama, USA; National running back Khalil Herbert of Virginia Tech (25) runs the ball during National practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
  • Fourth round, 113th pick: Trill Williams, CB, Syracuse
  • Fifth round, 151st pick: Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
  • Sixth round, 191st pick: Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State
  • Sixth round, 193rd pick: Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Oregon

Offense and acquiring a couple foundational pieces to build around Darnold was the obvious priority in the opening of this mock, so now the Panthers build out their cornerback depth with Rasul Douglas and Corn Elder still deciding what to do in free agency.

These three selections really are strong ones. Trill Williams has the length and skill set better suited at outside corner, yet he played primarily in the slot at Syracuse. If Carolina puts him in the right spot, there’s a chance Williams eventually emerges as a starter in Year 2.

Speaking of underrated defensive backs who are pro-ready, Graham fits that description as well. Before opting out of the 2020 campaign, the Oregon standout was a three-year starter in Eugene and had tremendous production. Graham racked up 183 total tackles, eight interceptions and 32 passes defensed in 40 games.

Quite a strong resume, and why he’s still on the board in Round 6 is unclear. If it’s slightly underwhelming athleticism, well, Graham has all the instincts and stellar game tape to offset that minor concern.

Finally, how about a little bit of insurance in the backfield behind McCaffrey? The All-Pro playmaker missed all but three games last season, and his backup Mike Davis signed with the Falcons.

Virginia Tech’s Herbert is a vastly underrated tailback who had 1,183 yards rushing (7.6 yards per carry) in 11 games for the Hokes, and spent the prior four years at an embattled Kansas program before then. Despite his advanced football age for a draft prospect, Herbert has little wear and tear, possesses great speed and would be an absolute steal in the fifth round.

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