4 prospects who could tempt Panthers to go defense at No. 8

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Patrick Surtain
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Patrick Surtain /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

Which 2021 NFL Draft prospects could tempt the Carolina Panthers into going defense at No. 8 overall this spring?

The stakes are incredibly high for the Carolina Panthers this offseason. They were plenty of pleasing aspects to take from the 2020 campaign despite the team’s 5-11 record and if they get their recruitment right in the coming weeks it might just see Matt Rhule’s men make a bid to reach the postseason during his second year at the helm.

Money is going to be tight with the salary-cap coming down. So it will be up to general manager Scott Fitterer and Rhule to come up with a structured plan that not only improves the roster short-term but also puts them in a position to thrive in the years to come.

This is going to be difficult, of that there is little doubt.

But if they can somehow do this and not jeopardize their long-term future, it could give them the platform to progress sooner rather than later.

Carolina Panthers have a big decision to make at No. 8 overall.

With a big-money move in free agency unlikely, it leaves the Panthers looking to build through the draft once again. Most of their 2020 selections managed to make a big difference and Fitterer has a strong reputation for finding the right sort of prospects in the later rounds during his time with the Seattle Seahawks.

They have a huge decision to make at No. 8 overall. Trading back is a real possibility if the top-three quarterbacks are gone by this point and the Panthers might also be hoping someone with elite potential like Oregon’s offensive tackle Penei Sewell falls into their laps.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at four incoming college recruits who might tempt Carolina into going defense with the No. 8 selection.

Prospect No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports) Kwity Paye /

Kwity Paye – DE/OLB (Michigan)

Although things improved for the Carolina Panthers in terms of getting after the quarterback in the latter stages of the 2020 season, they could still use another young piece that can make a difference. Defensive linemen Brian Burns and Derrick Brown are clearly destined for greatness, with second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos also showing signs of life during a frustrating rookie campaign due to injury.

If the Panthers want to go defense, then someone with the physical attributes of Kwity Paye is an intriguing option. The Michigan edge rusher is a brute force that has all the explosiveness needed to make a real go of things at the next level and if the prospect can be coached on the basic fundamentals to be more efficient, then someone is going to have a real player on their hands.

Adding Paye to a promising young defensive front could be tempting for the Panthers despite their more pressing needs elsewhere. But much will depend on how the draft plays out in front of them.