Carolina Panthers 7-round 2023 NFL mock draft: Starting over edition
By Dean Jones
Carolina Panthers select Nolan Smith
- Defensive End/Outside Linebacker | Georgia
Now that the Carolina Panthers have their quarterback of the future, getting themselves someone that can wreak havoc on opposing signal-callers should be among their top priorities. Yetur Gross-Matos hasn’t performed to the required standard after the team let Haason Reddick walk in free agency, with speculation continuing about star defensive end Brian Burns moving on for a king’s ransom before the trade deadline.
The Panthers dealing Burns – who’s their best pass-rusher by a considerable margin – would be a grave error in judgment. Even if general manager Scott Fitterer needs to recoup capital following a flurry of trade activity since replacing Marty Hurney.
If Burns departs, the hole will be gaping. One not even someone like Nolan Smith could fill.
However, pairing the Georgia standout with Burns has the look of an exceptional edge tandem that can steer the Panthers to bigger and better things moving forward.
Smith has the explosiveness to operate either as a 3-4 outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end. Although given his size and ability to assist in coverage, he’d be better suited to the second level, one suspects.
With Shaq Thompson’s contract coming into question, this looks like an ideal – and cheaper – replacement. Smith works off blockers extremely well and is always on hand to make a play when the Bulldogs need him most, traits that Carolina could use in a big way.