Panthers 7-round 2023 NFL mock draft: Pro days provide clearer picture

Kendre Miller
Kendre Miller / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers
Owen Pappoe / Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK

Carolina Panthers select Owen Pappoe

  • Linebacker | Auburn Tigers | Round No. 4 (Pick No. 132)

Entering the offseason, the Carolina Panthers had a potential big need on the second level of their defense. It was unclear whether or not Shaq Thompson would return due to having a high cap hit and the team was expected to look for ways of getting into a better financial position.

That was more than two weeks ago. Today, Thompson is still a Panther after reworking his contract and will be staying in Carolina for the next two seasons. However, that does not fully elevate the concern at linebacker.

I'm not entirely sure what defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has in store for linebacker Frankie Luvu and whether or not he will be the other middle linebacker next to Thompson or be the team's 3-4 outside linebacker opposite Brian Burns. If not, Scott Fitterer will be looking for speed at the position in this year's draft.

In this mock scenario, Fitterer goes with one of the faster defensive prospects in the NFL Draft, Owen Pappoe. The former five-star high school recruit ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and his athleticism was on full display during a prolific career, displaying great burst and sideline-to-sideline range that I believe Evero will fall in love with.

With Thompson getting older, having a developmental linebacker like Pappoe as depth with Brandon Smith waiting in the wings is a plus for the future of Carolina's second level.