The Carolina Panthers will be picking 16th in the draft this coming April. The players mentioned here won’t all be projected to go in the first round, but could all be in play during the entirety of the NFL draft. Carolina has a plethora of needs and these players might end up filling them this offseason.
1. Brian Burns, Edge Rusher, Florida State
Standing at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Burns is undersized but has unique bend and quickness off of the edge. He’s also very intelligent during plays, often shifting which gap he’ll decide to rush. One of the weaker spots in his game, however, comes when trying to switch from speed-to-power. During the draft process, his weight will be closely monitored by most teams. The main question regarding Burns will be his ability to maintain his play with an additional 20 pounds on his frame.
Burns is currently projected as a mid-first round talent but may fall down the draft due to the immense amount of talent on the edge in this draft. He is a player that will likely be available when the Carolina Panthers pick at 16.
2. Cody Ford, Interior Offensive Line, Oklahoma
The Panthers desperately need to protect Cam Newton, and Cody Ford is a unique blocker that played right tackle at Oklahoma protecting another mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray. Ford is very quick for his size (similar to Trai Turner) and would help solidify a young Panthers line that already has Taylor Moton, Daryl Williams, and the aforementioned Trai Turner.
Ford is a strong player and almost nobody was able to bullrush him this past season for the Sooners. The only major concern with Ford would be his footwork, which, again, should improve once moved to the interior offensive line. He is projected to go in the first round, but many evaluators are struggling to project his stock further than that.
3. Devin Bush, Linebacker, Michigan
Devin Bush is an explosive, smart linebacker that is always involved in the play. While Bush is undersized (5-foot-11, 220), he’s powerful and has a very high football IQ. Bush is a dynamic blitzer who is able to shoot a given gap with ease. He isn’t the best block-shedder, but not all linebackers need to be.
Devin Bush is the type of linebacker that can take over any given football game. He is projected as a late-first round prospect, but his stock could improve if he tests well at the NFL combine.
4. Deionte Thompson, Safety, Alabama
Thompson is a player on the back end with elite speed and athleticism. He’s quick to the ball, and one of the better coverage safeties in this draft. Thompson struggled against Clemson in the college football championship game, but was an elite level player during the first half of the season.
While there is a debate between Thompson and Nasir Adderley of Delaware, the Alabama product will likely go late-first round. Unless Carolina either trades down or Thompson falls to their second round pick, I’m doubtful that Carolina will select him on day one.
5. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Defensive Back, Florida
I have CGJ listed as a defensive back because nobody is really sure of where he will be listed in the NFL. I personally see him as a nickel corner despite him playing most of his time at Florida at the safety position. CGJ intercepted a total of nine passes during his three-year career for the Gators. He can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time but is not consistent in man coverage.
Gardner-Johnson is a great fit for the modern safety/nickel position. He is seen by most evaluators as a day two pick, but there may be a team picking in the latter half of round one that falls in love with his skill set (just like the Pittsburg Steelers did with Terrell Edmunds in last year’s draft).
6. Ben Powers, Interior Offensive Line, Oklahoma
I know what you’re thinking. Cody Ford is already on this list. But hear me out, if the Panthers decide to abstain from picking an offensive lineman in the first round, Ben Powers will likely be available in round two.
Powers was not challenged by power rushers at the collegiate level, and his footwork was mostly solid. As a run blocker, Powers covers a lot of ground in zone schemes. He doesn’t have too much power (ironically), but his strength is functional. Powers is seen as a second-round prospect that may fly up draft boards due to the lack of availability in this draft’s interior offensive line class.
7. Jaylon Ferguson, Edge Rusher, Louisiana Tech
The FBS all-time sack leader, Ferguson was elite during his tenure at Louisiana Tech. Ferguson effectively uses his hands and is quick to the point of attack. At 6-foot-5, 265, he has a great edge frame and uses his body effectively.
Ferguson will likely be available when the Panthers pick in the second round (47th overall selection), and wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the pick, should Carolina go in another direction with their first-round choice.
8. Renell Wren, Interior Defensive Line, Arizona State
Renell Wren is a quick 1-technique defensive tackle that could add much-needed depth to a disappointing Panthers defensive line in 2018. He is physically dominant, and also extremely quick for his size (Wren is rumored to have run a 4.85 40-yard dash time.
While the interior line won’t be the most pressing need Carolina must address, getting a solid 1T tackle alongside Kawann Short would only benefit the line after Dontari Poe frustrated fans in his first season in Carolina. Wren is projected to go in the late-third to early-fourth round in the draft this year.
9. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Wide Reciever, Texas
LJ Humphrey is a big-body receiver that can go up and make catches. It’s unlikely the Panthers bring back WRX in Devin Funchess, so getting another possession-based receiver would greatly benefit the team, and especially one of Humphrey’s caliber.
Not only is he good getting the ball, but Humphrey also excels in his unique ability after the catch. At 6-foot-4, 220, Humphrey may be exactly what Carolina needs. He is projected to go in either the third, fourth, or fifth round.