Carolina Panthers 7-round 2024 NFL mock draft: What would you do edition

Cedric Gray
Cedric Gray / Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers draft Cedric Gray

  • Linebacker | North Carolina Tar Heels
  • Round 3 | No. 65 overall

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Saturday that the Carolina Panthers are interested in re-signing star linebacker Frankie Luvu this offseason. It’s great to hear this information, though that shouldn’t change the process for what they need at the defensive second level in the coming months.

Luvu is a very talented player who was a green dot guy. This means he was receiving the defensive play calls on the field. However, I don’t believe he was able to be as impactful as he would’ve liked. The former Washington State star is a downhill defender who can rush the passer and explode into the backfield with terrific athleticism and instincts.

Even if Luvu returns, drafting or signing another linebacker is a legitimate possibility. At No. 65, the value for an offensive lineman here was good, but not great. I chose to go on a unique route by mocking nearby linebacker Cedric Gray to his local NFL franchise.

I would like to see Gray improve his play strength. I do think he could be more controlled in pursuit angles and tackles. However, he’s the perfect second-level defender to pair with Shaq Thompson as a prodigy should the long-time Panthers captain hit free agency in 2025.

Gray is a well-compacted 6-foot-2, 235-pound second-level defender with great range and explosiveness. There are some similarities in play style between Gray and Luvu. Both can flip their hips and carry opposing running backs or tight ends downfield or at the hip pocket in man coverage. 

A three-year starter at Chapel Hill, Gray can tackle well in space when he’s controlled and plays with incredible effort. For the Panthers, it's all about drafting players who can provide an immediate contribution early on in their careers.

Gray would be a popular pick and is one of the better off-ball linebacker prospects in the draft. His skills would be a nice fit in Ejiro Evero’s defense.