Carolina Panthers 7-round 2024 NFL mock draft: Decision time edition

The time is almost upon us...
Renardo Green
Renardo Green / Jack Williams/Tallahassee Democrat / USA
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Carolina Panthers draft Graham Barton

  • Center | Duke Blue Devils
  • Round No. 2 | No. 33 overall

Dan Morgan has stressed the need to find the best prospects available regardless of positional need. This is a nice theory, but not one many teams have the luxury of when push comes to shove.

However, considering how many holes the Panthers have despite some decent acquisitions made throughout the offseason, Morgan could implement this strategy during the 2024 NFL Draft. If Graham Barton falls out of the first round - which does appear unlikely all things considered - it would be a hard opportunity to pass up.

The Carolina Panthers made some significant investments in the offensive line interior during free agency. Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis will form the team's starting guard tandem moving forward, with those in power opting to transition Austin Corbett to the center position after releasing Bradley Bozeman.

Corbett is experienced and talented enough to cope well with this switch. However, he's got almost no experience in the role and is coming off two significant knee injuries in consecutive seasons. A contingency plan must be found and Barton is arguably the best center prospect emerging from the college ranks this year.

One thing that stands out above Barton above all else is athleticism. The Duke prospect is incredibly explosive, getting to the point of attack with speed and aggression. The lineman possesses the quick-twitch change in direction needed to counter pass-rushing moves from the interior. He's also making a permanent switch to the offensive line anchor spot, but it's something he did on occasion during his time with the Blue Devils.

Looking at Barton's film and how it might transition to the pros, one cannot help but compare his athletic intangibles and ability to move so well for someone his size with how Jason Kelce looked throughout his glittering career. That's the highest bar imaginable to aim for, but there's nothing to suggest the incoming player isn't capable of having an extremely productive NFL career.

Whether he makes it this far down the pecking order is another matter.