With the Panthers' season going so well, (thankfully!) people haven't been as eager as last year to start posting mock drafts. While it may be too early for a mock (OK, it definitely is), here it is!
1st Round: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron is a downright freakish athlete. At 6-4, 245 he's a big boy with tremendous hands, great speed, and more than solid route running. He creates matchup problems everywhere, whether it be in-line, split out wide, or in the backfield. His blocking is lacking, but it's not as bad as Greg Olsen. Speaking of Olsen, he and Ebron would be a terrific TE duo, similar (or even better) than what New England had with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. It also doesn't hurt that he's a UNC product.
2nd Round: La'el Collins, OT, Louisiana State
We all know Cam will do a lot better with an improved offensive line. Collins, a dominating run blocker, can be the LT of the future in Charlotte. Surprisingly athletic for his 6-5, 315 size, he's no slouch in pass protection. Collins spent his first two years at LSU as a guard, which speaks to his versatility (although he was far from a standout at guard). Gettleman will like his size and his solid technique but may be concerned with his motor or work ethic.
3rd Round: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks may not be around at this spot, but if he is, the panthers would do themselves a huge favor by snagging him. He's a ridiculously fast player, with solid hands, amazing YAC ability, and pretty precise route running. Did I mention that he posted 120 receptions for 1,670 yards and 15 touchdowns this year? His biggest flaw is his 5-10, 186 size and his lack of physicality. He's a pretty bad blocker, too, but his blazing speed and explosive playmaking ability make him totally worth it.
4th Round: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Lawrence is a physical and athletic DE. He is sound against the run, with good gap discipline and doing a good job of shedding blockers. His pass rush, though, is very inconsistent. Lawrence relies mostly on his speed rush, and without a good first step he fails to make and impact most of the time. When he does, he can be a terrific force, terrorizing opposing QBs. With the very real possibly of Greg Hardy walking, Lawrence could add solid depth and maybe even be a diamond in the rough like Hardy himself (although their games are drastically different).
5th Round: Deion Belue, CB, Alabama
Cornerback is another of our big needs, and while I think we can do pretty well to shore up the position in free agency, Belue could be someone worthwhile to add to our stable. He doesn't have elite size, (5-11, 183), but has good technique and can stay with a wide receiver quite nicely, though he does have problems with bigger WRs. Belue doesn't get burned often (a tendency our other corners posses) and has fluid hips and good instincts when the ball is in the air. His tackling isn't great at all, but he has tenacity and a willingness to run to the ball on rushing plays.
6th Round: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan
Playing alongside Taylor Lewan certainly didn't hurt Michael Schofield's skills. He is a tall but relatively light lineman (6-6, 304) who is quite nimble and quick-footed. He has a nasty streak and solid fundamentals, good quickness of the ball and a good motor. However, he isn't that powerful or strong, and can be suceptible to bull rushers who catch him off balance.
7th Round: Elisha Olabode, FS, Texas Christian University
I tried too hard, didn't I?