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Czikk’s take: Baker Mayfield to the Panthers heats up

Panthers are believed to have the “inside track” on the former No. 1 pick

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Former No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield may be on his way to Charlotte. At least it seems that way after a few big headlines this past week.

The Panthers are believed to have the “inside track” to land the former No. 1 pick over “several interested teams,” per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport recently made similar comments on the Pat McAfee Show.

“To me, the Carolina Panthers seem to be the most likely spot for Baker Mayfield, or maybe a team that brings him in as a big-time, high-money backup,” Rapoport said Friday.

And while Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson expressed displeasure at the idea of Mayfield coming to Carolina, my guess is Robby wouldn’t mind after a few weeks of quarterbacking at a higher level than what Sam Darnold offered.

And I do feel that Mayfield is a better quarterback than Darnold. And while Mayfield is certainly not in that upper echelon of quarterbacks, he wants to win all the time and you’ve got to give him that, at least. He plays with an intangible fire.

If the Panthers grab Mayfield, they’d be patching up a persistent problem that they weren’t able to adequately solve this offseason. They had one reasonable chance to grab a bona fide star quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but Watson chose the Browns over the Panthers and Falcons. I wouldn’t blame the Panthers there because it seems like the Browns ponied up big time cash and Watson made his decision. The only other bona fide star, Russell Wilson, did not appear linked to the Panthers at any point.

So now general manager Scott Fitterer knows he needs to solve the quarterback problem, and Mayfield seems like the next best logical choice at the moment, despite his baggage. The alternative, drafting a youngster, will take some time and growth, and I don’t know what Fitterer prefers.

If they were to acquire Mayfield, the Panthers would then almost certainly invest their No. 6 pick in an offensive tackle like Charles Cross, Trevor Penning, Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu, depending on who’s on the board.

Lance Zierlein over at NFL.com went that route this past week when he sent Cross to the Panthers in his newest mock.

On the other hand, the Panthers could grab either Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett in the draft, and Mel Kiper’s newest mock draft has the team drafting Willis at No. 6. Charles Davis at NFL.com similarly had Willis coming to Charlotte in his newest mock this past week.

And Todd McShay, in his most recent mock, has the Panthers taking Pittsburgh’s Pickett. Here’s what McShay had to say on that:

“The Panthers know they are running out of options and don’t have another draft pick until Round 4.

Rhule recruited Pickett while he was Temple’s coach, and Rhule has been locked into the signal-caller pro days this spring. Of the bunch, Pickett is the most NFL-ready quarterback available, and his fast processing ability, smooth pocket presence and excellent accuracy would elevate Carolina’s offense. If the Panthers opt to explore other QB avenues, Evan Neal would be the obvious pick for one of the NFL’s worst pass-blocking teams.”

At this point it’s truly anyone’s guess as to what the Panthers are going to do. If they don’t somehow acquire a veteran quarterback by the time the draft rolls around, I’ll be much more confident that the pick will be Willis or Pickett.

Using the NFL Mock Draft Database’s Mock Draft Simulator, I went through a mock and hope to do so going forward in these articles. They’re fun to do and if you have a few friends you can get together it can make for a pretty fun few hours.

CSR roasted me pretty heavily for one of my mocks last year, so I know I need to stay honest with you guys. Here’s how it went this week:

Round 1, pick 6: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Round 4, pick 137: Dare Rosenthal, OT, Kentucky
Round 5, pick 144: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Round 5, pick 149: Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Round 6, pick 199: Zakoby McClain, LB, Auburn
Round 7, pick 242: Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State