Panthers 7-round 2023 NFL mock draft: Post-Senior Bowl edition

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) Jayden Reed
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) Jayden Reed /
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Carolina Panthers
(John Reed-USA TODAY Sports) Owen Pappoe /

Carolina Panthers select Owen Pappoe

  • Linebacker | Auburn Tigers

When Luke Kuechly retired after a glittering NFL career, there was always going to be a steep drop-off at the middle linebacker position. However, after three years of lackluster consistency through various options, the Carolina Panthers must get their next move right this offseason.

Going down the veteran route hasn’t come with much success over the last three years. Acquiring someone from the 2023 NFL Draft gives them a cheap, long-term option if they finally find the correct fit.

Although the Panthers would be betting on athletic traits, Owen Pappoe ticks all the boxes if his ceiling is reached. And gambles such as this are something that’s been evident throughout Scott Fitterer’s first two drafts as general manager.

Pappoe is a physical specimen with every tool imaginable to become an NFL star. He is a little undersized in terms of height, but this rarely comes across on film thanks to his ability to become an exceptional presence in all phases.

Much like the situation with Brandon Smith in 2022, there are concerns regarding why Pappoe hasn’t put everything together in a more consistent manner. But the Penn State product demonstrated growth as a rookie which could lead the Panthers to take another with a similar upside.