Panthers 7-round 2023 NFL mock draft: Swinging big edition

(Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports) Jahmyr Gibbs
(Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports) Jahmyr Gibbs /
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Carolina Panthers
(John Reed-USA TODAY Sports) Owen Pappoe /

Carolina Panthers draft Owen Pappoe

  • Linebacker | Auburn Tigers

With the next pick of the mock draft, the Carolina Panthers fill the void in their linebacker depth similar to Brandon Smith last year. That player is Owen Pappoe, who has elite speed and range for the position.

Pappoe was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award in his senior season at Auburn. He contributed 91 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception, which is solid production ahead of his NFL quest.

The prospect still has some work to do in the weight room and on the practice field to scrape off blocks better. But Pappoe boasts the sort of athletic ability and instincts that will allow him to be a productive linebacker in coverage and going downhill against the run.

A year or two developing under Shaq Thompson – providing the veteran second-level defender doesn’t become a cap casualty – and defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will help Pappoe become an all-around NFL linebacker. So this is a tremendous spot for the player to end up.

Pappoe has the physical attributes to be an impactful player when given the opportunity. He and Smith being on the roster provide two options to replace Thompson when his time in Carolina ends.