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The Panthers go all offense in the latest Kiper-McShay three-round mock draft

Fitterer, Rhule stock up on offensive talent according to ESPN analysts.

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The Carolina Panthers would take a franchise left tackle, a tight end and a wide receiver over their first three picks in the 2021 NFL Draft if it were up to Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

Kiper and McShay released their combined mock on Tuesday in which the pair of draft analysts took turns making picks.

The rules are simple: three full rounds and 105 total picks, with Kiper starting at No. 1. Deals that hinted at “I won’t take Player X if you don’t take Player Y.” were not allowed.

Let’s get into the Panthers picks.

Round 1, No. 8 overall (McShay): Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

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Here’s what McShay said about his pick:

The Panthers have to protect Sam Darnold for their trade for him to work out. They franchise-tagged Taylor Moton, but Slater can start opposite him at left tackle or slide inside to guard for a year.

Slater’s chances of being available here: 99.0%

Round 2, No. 39 overall (Kiper): Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

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Here’s what Kiper said:

Ian Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2018, only has 36 catches over the past two seasons, and so the Panthers need a tight end who can stretch the middle of the field. Long is also a good blocker — he’s a complete player.

Round 3, No. 73 overall (Kiper): Nico Collins, WR, Michigan

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Here’s what Kiper said:

I got Sam Darnold some help in Round 2 with a tight end, and Collins is a big, 6-foot-4 receiver who averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2019. He could be a steal this late.

Giving Darnold more tools to work with

The Panthers could very reasonably target offense over the first three rounds as the ESPN analysts suggest. That’s after having stocked up on defense during the offseason, bringing on EDGE Haasan Reddick, linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerback AJ Bouye and defensive lineman Morgan Fox and DaQuan Jones.

Giving new quarterback Sam Darnold more protection and more weapons is exactly what critics say the Jets didn’t do.

After Darnold’s first season in New York, the Jets somewhat invested in offensive talent over the first three rounds of the draft.

In 2019 the Jets took USC tackle Chuma Edoga in the third round. In 2020, the Jets grabbed Louisville tackle Mekhi Beckton in the first round and Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second round. It was too little, too late.

Now in Carolina, general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule already have a stronger offense around Darnold. The likes of a DJ Moore and Robby Anderson duo didn’t exist in New York (just Anderson).

Whatever does happen in next week’s draft, it’s surely an exciting time for Panthers die-hards.