I don't know about the rest of you, but I spend countless hours obsessing over the NFL draft
, and I don't think it's ever too early to make a mock draft, so here we go!
Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
There are a few things you can't teach a receiver: size, speed, and jumping ability. Mike Evans has plenty of that. At 6"5', he is a mismatch for just about anyone. He is also much faster than people think he is, I've seen him burn plenty of corners that underestimate him. He has bailed out Johnny Manziel plenty of times with his jumping ability too. Evans would really open up the vertical passing game again, which is something the panthers could really use, considering we are near last in the league with plays of 20+ yards downfield.
Alternative Pick: Antonio Richardson, LT Tennessee
James Hurst, LT UNC
The offensive line is a major concern right now. When protection holds up, Cam Newton is without a doubt, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but when he gets rushed, the ball tends to sail on him, and he makes bad choices. The best way to correct that is to take one of the best tackles in the draft. James Hurst is a first round draft pick in a weaker draft, but he might end up sliding to us in the second, and after watching his performance against Jadeveon Clowney earlier this year, I could not be happier. James Hurst would be an absolute steal in the 2nd round, and a perfect replacement for Jordan Gross.
Alternative Pick: Gabe Jackson, G Miss. St.
Xavier Su'a-Filo, G UCLA
I think the Panthers should continue to address the offensive line issues in the draft, and guard has become a major need for us after all the injuries at the position. Xavier Sua'Filo would probably be the starter on day 1. He has been a great blocker for Brett Hundley at UCLA, and has helped open up running lanes for him and his running backs. He has had a few injuries, but he isn't from a small school, and has plenty of experience against premier pass rushers already. He isn't as big as a Cyril Richardson, or Gabe Jackson, but he could still be a valuable addition to the line.
Alternative Pick: Devante Parker, WR Louisville
Seantrel Henderson, RT Miami
I know, I know, I'm like a broken record with the offensive line, but ya gotta protect Cam! I hate to break it to you, but Byron Bell isn't very good. I know, shocking. Seantrel Henderson isn't going to jump out at you, but he comes from a major school, and can sit the bench for a few seasons if need-be. I'm not expecting him to be an all-pro or anything, but I think he'll develop into a solid player.
Alternative Pick: Jared Abrendareis, WR Wisconsin
Ryan Groy, G Wisconsin
This is the last time I'm going to say it, I promise. I love just about any lineman from Wisconsin, because they stress running the ball so much there. All of their linemen are great at opening up running lanes, and they just seem to mesh well. Call this pick a bit of favoritism on my part, or whatever you'd like, but I think he is a great pick, and other mock drafts I've seen also have him listed as a 5th or 6th round pick.
Alternative Pick: Quandre Diggs, CB Texas
Sixth Round (from NYG)
Josh Huff, WR Oregon
With some of our receivers headed for free agency this offseason, we need to add some depth at receiver. Josh Huff has been playing very good at Oregon, and might eventually become a WR3 for us. He is also a great blocker, just like all the receivers from Oregon.
Alternative Pick: Ryan Carrerthers, DT Arkansas St.
Boseko Lokombo, OLB Oregon
A few OLB's are going to be free agents after this season, so we need to add some more depth at the position, and this is just a case of best-player-available at the position.
Alternative Pick: Colt Lyerla, TE Oregon (I know it won't happen, but it would be an interesting pick)