Carolina Panthers tipped for unwanted NFL Draft distinction in 2025

This would be unwelcome, to put it mildly.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / David Jensen/GettyImages

Once the NFL Draft concludes, the page turns immediately to the next round of incoming college recruits. The Carolina Panthers scouting department and others around the league will be busy preparing reports and shortlisting potential prospects for the next selection process. There is no time to rest on their laurels in pursuit of getting the upper hand.

After having to navigate a tricky situation this year with no first-round pick to call upon after thanks to their daring trade for quarterback Bryce Young, things look far more promising for general manager Dan Morgan next time around. Carolina has no fewer than nine selections in 2025. Providing they don't crash and burn throughout their first season under head coach Dave Canales, there could be an opportunity to propel themselves into contention with the resources available.

Carolina Panthers tipped for No. 1 pick again in 2025

And yes, the inevitable way-too-early 2025 mock drafts have taken center stage in recent days. Nobody knows where the Panthers will be picking and what critical needs they'll have by this point, but that doesn't stop the rumor mill from swirling nonetheless.

Max Chadwick and Dalton Wasserman from Pro Football Focus speculated that the Panthers could have their pick of prospects from No. 1 overall once again. Rather than examine a quarterback possibility such as Shadeur Sanders from what seems to be a weaker class than most or take gifted all-around weapon Travis Hunter out of Colorado, the writers had Carolina selecting edge rushing sensation James Pearce Jr. out of Tennessee.

"After trading away Brian Burns, the Panthers find their next athletic edge rusher in [James] Pearce. The sophomore’s 21.3% pressure rate ranked third among college football edge defenders, as did his 92.4 pass-rush grade. The scariest part is that he won almost exclusively off athleticism against SEC tackles. If Pearce develops more pass-rushing moves, watch out."

Pearce is an outstanding prospect capable of great things with another strong college campaign under his belt. The Panthers plugged their edge rushing hole in the short term by signing D.J. Wonnum and Jadeveon Clowney, but there seems to be a definite need for a dynamic, top-tier threat with the athletic scope needed to become Brian Burns' long-term successor.

It would be a big disappointment if the Panthers secure the unwarranted distinction of the No. 1 pick yet again. However, at least they'd get to use it this time. Looking at the quarterback landscape, finding a willing trade partner to trade down for a king's ransom seems unlikely at this extremely early juncture. But again, there's plenty of time for that to change.

They're fun to do and keep the draft community engaged during their quietest time. However, mock drafts one year before the actual event are merely a pointer for fans to get a broader perception of what prospects should be on their radar. A lot changes in a short space of time.

Who could forget that Spencer Rattler was once touted as the No. 1 pick and a can't-miss prospect? He ended up transferring from Oklahoma to South Carolina and was eventually a fifth-round selection in 2024 when the New Orleans Saints ended his concerning slide at No. 150.

Pearce looks like one of the best players set to emerge from the collegiate level next year. Whether the Panthers have a shot at acquiring him or not has yet to be determined.