The Carolina Panthers own the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The team has had tremendous success when drafting inside the top ten.
The last three drafts that the Carolina Panthers have had a top ten pick they have capitalized by taking quarterback Cam Newton (No. 1) in 2011, linebacker Luke Kuechly (No. 9) in 2012 and running back Christian McCaffrey (No. 8) in 2017.
This year they hold the No. 7 pick and look to continue their first-round success.
Most mock drafts have LSU quarterback Joe Burrow locked into going No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Ohio State’s edge-rusher Chase Young seems to be the consensus No. 2 pick going to the Washington Redskins.
After that, draft analysts differ on opinion but it usually goes something like Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa taken next. Let’s assume they are right and those five players are off the board before Carolina’s first pick.
Who should Carolina consider? Read on to find out.
No. 5: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
NFL Comparison: Daniel Jones, NY Giants
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is considered to be the third-best quarterback available in this year’s draft. Herbert has shown flashes of being an exceptionally athletic QB that fits the current mold in the NFL.
The only way the Panthers would consider a quarterback with their first-round pick is if they decide to part ways with Cam Newton this offseason. This has been rumored since Carolina’s season came to an end in December.
Newton is still under contract with the team and seems committed to returning to the starting role in 2020 as long as his health permits. Panthers’ owner David Tepper has also suggested that Newton can regain his role with the team if healthy, which remains to be seen. If he is not available for Carolina in 2020, then Herbert might just be the team’s biggest need.
Watching the Oregon tape, Herbert reminds me of a more athletic Daniel Jones. He could potentially be a great fit in the Panther’s new offensive scheme led by former LSU offensive play-caller, Joe Brady.
No. 4: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
NFL Comparison: Ndamukong Suh, TB Buccaneers
Last season the San Francisco 49ers proved that a solid defensive line can take a team a long way in the NFL. Carolina’s defensive front is solid but could use one or two young run stoppers. Auburn’s Derrick Brown is exactly that.
The Panthers finished second in the league with 53 sacks as a team, so they were really effective getting after opposing quarterbacks. They were in the bottom five stopping the run, however. They allowed an average of 143 rushing yards per game. This is an area that Brown could really help them with.
A quick look at the tape will show that he has similar instincts to Ndamukong Suh. He is slippery to shed his block and get a quick hit on running plays. He also has a knack for putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks although he does not pile up many sacks.
Brown could be an interior defensive lineman that the Panthers could build around for years to come.
No. 3: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Jarvis Landry, CLE Browns
Okay, so the Panthers have a need for many positions in what is expected to be a rebuilding year and wide receiver is not one of those positions. Carolina has two young receivers that are very talented and have yet to even reach their full potential in D.J Moore and Curtis Samuel.
Still, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy is such a phenomenal talent that the Panthers must at least consider him if he is available at No. 7. Jeudy is a polished route runner that has created separation against every SEC cornerback that he has faced.
Jeudy is probably the overall second-best NFL prospect in this year’s draft behind Ohio State’s Chase Young who is projected to be the second pick. His floor is extremely high and his ceiling is just about limitless.
He reminds me of a more polished Jarvis Landry because of the way he can get open when lining up in the slot as well as from the outside.
He could turn the Panthers’ receiving corps to a top-five unit in the league. Remember the Indianapolis Colts’ receivers back in Peyton Manning’s prime? Yeah, Jeudy could be the Marvin Harrison to D.J. Moore’s Reggie Wayne.
No. 2: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
NFL Comparison: Jason Peters, PHI Eagles
Taking an offensive lineman in the top ten isn’t the splashiest move Carolina could make but it just might be the best one. Whoever is at quarterback for the team in 2020 needs upgraded protection.
Georgia’s left tackle Andrew Thomas anchored arguably the best offensive line in all of college football. He could step in day one and start at guard or tackle for the Panthers.
Taking an offensive lineman in the first round is usually a good move long term due to their longevity. Thomas could be a part of Carolina’s line for ten plus years.
No. 1: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
NFL Comparison: Bobby Wagner, SEA Seahawks
The pick that makes the most sense for the Panthers here is Clemson’s linebacker, Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a tremendous talent at a position that Carolina has a need for since Luke Kuechly decided to hang it up this offseason.
Simmons is a hybrid linebacker than can drop into coverage, play the run game and bring extra pressure on blitzes. He also comes from as professional as a program as there is in college football. He could step in day one and be the most talented player on the field with the instinct to go with it.
Kuechly is an impossible player that the Panthers have the unfortunate task to try and replace. Simmons is the closest thing in this year’s draft.
Simmons reminds me of a stronger and bigger Bobby Wagner. He has great instinct and seems to be around the ball on every play.
The Panthers and Simmons fit perfectly together. Simmons gets to stay in Carolina and the Panthers get a stud in the middle of their defense that they can build around throughout the Matt Rhule era.