The Panthers are on the clock after securing the first overall pick in a trade with the Bears. This trade came with a cost as they lost their number one receiver in DJ Moore. I did this mock with the help of mockdraftdatabase.com. Let’s look at what I got for the Panthers in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Round 1: Pick 1
CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
No brainer here for the Panthers. They need a quarterback in the most desperate of ways. So desperate they traded away their number one receiver in order to put themselves in position to draft a QB. Time will tell to see if the Panthers go after a receiver in free agency. Here the Panthers have several options for the QB position. Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Anthony Richardson are all on the table here. I feel the right way to go is with Stroud, who is the type of quarterback that can make any type of throw with distance and touch. He is less mobile than Richardson or Young but he can still make plays and move. Stroud is a QB that has proven he can perform well outside of Big 10 competition and can handle high pressure moments. I would love to see what Frank Reich would be able to do with a young talent like Stroud. The Panthers finally get their answer at quarterback here.
Round 2: Pick 40
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
There were several options available in Round 2. I could have gone for running back Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama, wide receiver Josh Downs from North Carolina, or tight end Darnell Washington from Georgia. I was so surprised when it got to my pick and Washington was still on the board that I had to take him. The Panthers have a desperate need at tight end, even after signing Hayden Hurst in free agency. Tommy Tremble was drafted a few years ago and he has been nothing but average. Ian Thomas has also been on the roster for a hot minute and he has bricks for hands. The tight end position has been cursed since Greg Olsen left the team. The curse ends here. Washington is a freakish athlete who can block and catch the ball. It is absolutely insane that a man standing at 6’7” and 265 lbs can move the way he does. This would be a huge addition for the Panthers offense as they are trying to get some weapons together for their new quarterback. The fact that Washington can block and catch is a nice bonus. He would be a great addition to make some snags in tough places on the field and he would be a red zone nightmare.
Round 3: Pick 94
Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
The receiver pick comes here. The other options that were on the board were running back Tyjae Spears from Tulane and wide receiver Tyler Scott from Cincinnati. Boutte was the pick I felt comfortable making at this spot. He has tremendous athleticism and has big play ability with the ball in his hands. LSU used him on slants, screens, curls, and jet sweeps. Get the ball into his hands and he makes things happen. He has great long speed and can get upfield in a hurry. Boutte is a huge threat to defenses because of how he makes himself available to the quarterback. There are issues with focus drops that he will need to work on, but overall this is a wide receiver who can come in and be a solid target for a new quarterback.
Round 4: Pick 115–Trade with New Orleans for R4 Pick 116, R5 Pick 148, R7 Pick 259
Round 4: Pick 116
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
Man was I surprised to get here and find that Tyjae Spears was still on the board. I grabbed him without hesitation and didn’t even look to see who else was available. The Panthers have not re-signed D’Onta Foreman yet and they have yet to show whether or not they have plans to. Chuba Hubbard has been decent but not great. And Christian McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers. So the running back position is definitely a need that needs to be addressed, although the team did sign Miles Sanders. Tyjae Spears has definitely made a name for himself as of late jumping up the draft boards. His athleticism and ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands is a big reason to buy in. He is not going to be a feature back in an offense but he is a great running back to rotate in and out. Plus he adds some variety to the offense.
Round 5: Pick 147
Jarrett Patterson, IOL, Notre Dame
The Carolina Panthers have finally figured out the offensive tackle position with Ickey Ekwonu on the left side and Taylor Moton on the right. The center position is locked up for the next three years with the re-signing of Bradley Bozeman. The interior parts are getting there and have been the strongest they have been in years. Here the Panthers will boost that position. Patterson is a very smart football player; he understands the game. He has great technique and finesse for a blocker. Patterson does lack some athleticism and good footwork. He would be a great addition to the team with what he brings to the game in both pass protection and run blocking.
Round 5: Pick 148
Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri
As of the time this article is being written, the Panthers have yet to extend EDGE rusher Brian Burns. Burns wants to stay in Carolina and it seems the Panthers want him to stay in Carolina so hopefully a deal will get done soon. Even if the Panthers are able to get Spiderman to stay in Charlotte, there is some help needed in the pass rushing front. Yetur Gross-Matos has been severely underwhelming at his position the past few years. Switching to a 3-4 defense brings about the need for an added pass rusher. McGuire fits the bill. McGuire has grown year after year in college and there is so much room for growth in his game. While he hasn’t had a ton of experience as a standup linebacker he definitely projects well. He at least would be a great rotational guy to start off with to add fresh legs to a defense.
Round 7: Pick 259
Ronnie Hickman, S, Ohio State
This purely was the best player available for depth. That’s what most seventh round picks are for anyways right? Hickman is a curious case. He has good ball hawking abilities and can drop down into the box if he needs to. Hickman just needs to improve at tackling and producing on his end on pass defense. Hickman is going to take some work to get him to where he needs to be as a starter at the NFL level. He likely will be a rotational guy who plays on special teams at first. There is potential there, it just has to be tapped into and work has to be put in on his part.
As a Panthers fan I would be ecstatic with this result. We get the quarterback of the future, we get a dynamic tight end who can do it all, and a wide receiver who has great playmaking ability. Other needs are also addressed to boost the offense and add a little bit of help to the defense. The Panthers are in a good position with this draft, having most of their picks left while still trading up to the first overall pick. Let’s hope they make it count.