5 realistic targets for the Panthers at No. 8 in the 2021 NFL Draft

(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) Trey Lance
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) Trey Lance /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule /

Which 2021 NFL Draft prospects should be there for the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 overall?

The Carolina Panthers now know their 2021 NFL Draft fate following their disappointing loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. It was a drab end to what has been a rollercoaster first campaign at the helm for head coach Matt Rhule, who has plenty of work to do this offseason in order for his roster to enter the postseason discussion next year.

Drafting well is going to be a key component to this. The Carolina Panthers could lose plenty of seasoned veterans once again and bringing in the right sort of quality from the college scene to replace them is vital to their progress.

Carolina will be picking at No. 8 overall later this spring, which is one spot ahead of where they selected defensive tackle Derrick Brown in 2020. There should be a number of exciting prospects available at this point, although the talented quarterback trio of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson will be long gone.

Let’s take a look at five players who are realistic targets for the Panthers in the first round.

Player No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images) Christian Darrisaw /

Christian Darrisaw – OT (Virginia Tech)

Russell Okung and his $13 million in base salary is coming off the books and the likelihood of him returning to Carolina is slim. The veteran left tackle has been unreliable due to injury and although he was still playing well, a longer-term solution to the Panthers’ blindside protection is needed.

Christian Darrisaw’s level of progression for Virginia Tech has been eye-catching and has seen the player’s draft stock surge as a result. He possesses an NFL-ready body that could slot in and start right away, with the potential of even more to come once he gets to the pros another enticing element to this pick that shouldn’t be overlooked.

If the Panthers aren’t able – or convinced – their starting signal-caller of the future is in this draft, then the best thing they could do is draft a franchise left tackle to give Teddy Bridgewater a better chance of succeeding.