The time is finally upon us. It’s draft week and Panther Nation is awaiting to see who Carolina picks. The Panthers could go multiple ways in the draft, but they have a lot of holes on the defensive side of the ball. Here’s my final mock of the season:
**The Cleveland Browns have traded picks 10, 74 and 97 to the Carolina Panthers for pick 7. (For an offensive tackle)**
PICK 10 **From Cleveland**
CB CJ Henderson – Florida
Carolina trades back, gains a couple of extra picks and still gets their man. The Panthers have a serious need at corner with Bradberry signing with the Giants. After trading back, it’s the perfect time to pull the trigger on Henderson. He’s a lock-down corner who would instantly make this defense better. Henderson has All-Pro potential and will fill an immediate need. His athletic profile fits what Matt Rhule is looking for and his ball hawk ability is something needed in Carolina. Henderson has all the tools you’d want in a starting corner and his flaws can be coached. He has good speed, length, agility and ball skills. In 2019, he had 9 deflected passes (mainly because no one threw his way), which is better than his first round competition, Jeff Okudah. There have been multiple rumors that Carolina is high on Henderson and that he is one of their targets in the first.
DT Ross Blacklock – TCU
He’s the best interior defensive tackle in the draft, not named Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw. Blacklock is an absolute stud on the inside and would fill a huge need. He’s a dominating force in the middle with outstanding power and a high motor. Blacklock is athletic and explosive, which is something that Coach Rhule is looking for. In 2019, Blacklock had 9 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. By comparison, consensus number one defensive tackle Derrick Brown has 11 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks in 2019. He is an exciting player that you can build your defense around and would be a steal at pick 38.
LB Willie Gay Jr. – Mississippi St.
If Isaiah Simmons wouldn’t have had such a great combine, everyone would’ve been talking about Willie Gay’s dominating performance in Indy. He has the second highest athletic profile for linebackers in this class. Gay is an every-down linebacker who will deliver bone-crushing hits when given the opportunity. He has great sideline to sideline speed and has good coverage skills for an outside linebacker. Getting a starting linebacker at pick 69 is a huge win for Marty and Company.
PICK 74 **From Cleveland**
C Matt Hennessy
Hennessy is a solid prospect at center who understands all of the nuances of the game. His football IQ is off the charts and is one of the toughest players in the draft. He possesses all of the tools you’d want for a starting center. Hennessy is smart, mobile, strong and tough. He may have to sit the bench this season, but Hennessy could overtake the starting spot in 2021.
PICK 97 **From Cleveland**
TE Harrison Bryant – FAU
Bryant is ascending up draft boards, and for good reason. He has good hands and can gain separation on nearly anyone with his route running and speed. He’s a fairly decent blocker, as he is a former high school offensive tackle. Bryant is a versatile receiving threat that can line up at almost every receiver position. He can come in on day one and make this offense even more explosive.
DE Alex Highsmith – Charlotte
Highsmith is a local product who has been climbing draft boards. He has a high motor and has the chance to be productive when given the opportunity. Highsmith has good inside and outside moves when rushing the passer and he has a quick first step. He will get work with special teams at the next level, as well as being worked into the edge rusher rotation.
PICK 148 **From Washington**
CB Amik Robertson – Louisiana Tech
Robertson is a physical corner who has that dog mentality. He has outstanding ball skills and anticipates routes to perfection. Robertson could play outside corner in a pinch, but may be better as a nickel at the next level. He is solid in coverage and one of the better tackling corners in the draft. Robertson is better at run support that most of the corners this year, too. It’s possible that Robertson could fight for a starting corner spot in 2020 or 2021.
WR Quintez Cephus
The Panthers have the speed at wide receiver, especially now with the addition of Robby Anderson. However, they could use a possession receiver who knows how to attack the defense. Cephus doesn’t have great speed but uses his solid route running ability to expose coverages and gain separation. He won’t get outmuscled and uses his hands to catch away from his body. Cephus has strong hands and good concentration. He’s a physical receiver who can produce in a multitude of ways. Great player to get in the fifth round.
G Damien Lewis
Lewis is a familiar face to new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. He has the mean streak and aggressiveness you want in run blocking. His pass blocking could use a little work, but it can be coached. Lewis is already familiar with Brady’s offense, so it may not take him as long getting acclimated. He is a solid pick and would be a starter in a year or two, as long as he cleans up a few things.
DT Bravvion Roy – Baylor
Carolina goes with another familiar face and picks the former Baylor Bear. Roy is a space eater who would be primarily used on run downs. He has a lot of power and is also quick for a guy his size. If anyone knows how to use Roy’s ability, it’s Coach Matt Rhule. In 2019, he had 13 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, which is good production for a nose tackle. Roy could work his way into be a consistent part of the rotation in two to three years.