2023 Panthers Mock Draft 1.0

Round 1- C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Stop me if you've heard this before, but our biggest priority this offseason is once again trying to find a franchise QB. We've tried almost every way imaginable to fix this never-ending problem, whether it be signing Bridgewater in Free Agency, or trading for Mayfield less than a year after trading for Darnold, and nothing has worked. Fortunately, all signs point to this being the year that we finally draft one in the 1st round. Supposedly the "apple of our eye" is Stroud, and while we'll probably have to trade up to get him, I think it's worth whatever it takes to get our franchise QB. However, I'm not going to make any trade predictions in this mock draft since it's still way too early for that, so let's assume that any trade-up only involves future picks, and we keep all of our picks this year.

Round 2- Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State

While fixing the QB position is obviously our #1 prioritiy this offseason, it should also be noted that Fitterer has openly said that this draft could be a bit "sexier" than years before, we can "take some shots" on "explosive" athletes, and that we can always use a "vertical receiver, tight ends, speed on the defensive side and ballhawks". Most of this mock draft will be based off those comments, since they reveal at least some of the mindset Fitterer will have going into the draft.

With that being said, even though our offense is definitely the side of the ball that needs more work, our defense isn't without its flaws either. One of those flaws is that we lack any quality pass-rushers to complement Burns, so it would make sense for us to get the next best one to fall out of the 1st round here. This pick would also be line with Fitterer's comments about getting explosive athletes and more speed on defense.

Round 2- Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

Reich's offenses have typically relied on a solid receiving TE to be a threat in the redzone, so considering Thomas is a waste of a roster spot while Tremble's development has been stunted by bad QB play and playcalling, getting the next best TE here makes sense. Personally, I prefer someone like Kincaid because of his production and natural receiving ability, but based on Fitterer's comments, I could see them drafting Musgrave because of his rare speed and athleticism.

Round 3- Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia

Even though we have some solid WRs, none are really that proven outside of Moore, and you can never surround your QB with too many weapons, so getting a WR here makes sense for us. In line with Fitterer's comments, I have us getting a fast, athletic, vertical threat who can play in the slot or on the outside.

Round 4- Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State

Yes, I get that RBs are one of the easiest positions to replace in the NFL, and Foreman has been really good for us, but we need a receiving back to complement him. Vaughn would be a perfect CMC replacement due to his speed, elusiveness, and receiving ability.

Round 4- Jay Ward, S, LSU

Even though Fitterer said he believes that we have some of the best young CBs in the league, in reality our only worthwhile DB is Horn. I'll admit that Woods is solid, but considering that Chinn should be transitioned back to his hybrid LB role, we could us another starting safety. Ward makes the most sense for us since he has experience at both positions, and is a fast, ballhawking DB that seems to fit Fitterer's comments.

Round 5- Trevor Downing, G/C, Iowa State

Our O-line has definitely improved this year, but it never hurts to have some depth, especially when we traded our versatile back-up in Daley, and our only other versatile O-linemen (Ekwonu, Christensen) are starters, so getting the next best O-lineman here makes sense for us.

Round 7- Keondre Coburn, DT, Texas

Similar to our O-line, our D-line has plenty of solid starters, but we could use some more depth for rotational purposes.

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