The 2014 NFL Draft is fast approaching and with it the excitement and anticipation at the opportunity to improve one’s team with marquee draft choices. Equally probable is the chance your team makes the wrong choices, potentially setting the franchise back years. The Carolina Panthers aren’t necessarily in a position to set the franchise back at all, but their immediate success could certainly be predicated upon the choices they make over the next 72 hours.
In the midst of the myriad NFL mock drafts, I present mine here for the Carolina Panthers for isportsweb.com. Using several mock drafts through the Fan Speaks! On The Clock Draft Simulator, ESPN.com, and NFL.com, and using various draft rankings through NFLDraftScout.com I have come up with a mock draft most likely to occur based on the Panther’s draft needs while also considering the needs and positioning of the other 31 teams drafting.
The Carolina Panthers Mock 2014 NFL Draft:
Round 1, 28th pick overall: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU.
Verrett, the 4th-ranked cornerback in a very deep class, has average size (5’10” 189 lbs.), but makes up for it with strength, superior athleticism, versatility and elite speed (4.36 40-yard dash). Verrett was an AP 2nd Team All-American and will help anchor the Panther’s secondary after the departure of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Round 2, 60th overall pick: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Adams, the top target of highly rated quarterback Derek Carr, has good size (6’ 1” 210 lbs.) and speed (4.51 40-yard dash), but even better athleticism and hands, helping him become a larger target than his size would suggest; Adams also didn’t drop a single pass in two years. Considering the Panther’s needs at wide receiver, Adams could slide right into the wide receiver rotation and make an immediate impact on the field.
Round 3, 92nd overall pick: Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan
At 6’7” 300 lb. Schofield is not only big, but has long arms, a wide base, can wall off lanes and also has great awareness and displays veteran leadership qualities. Schofield has an overachieving style of play and is very competitive, also showing versatility by starting at both guard and tackle 36 games over three seasons for the Wolverines. Schofield has the potential to make an impact at either the gaurd or tackle position, especially if he can gain better footwork.
Round 4, 128th overall pick: Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
Reynolds is a quick, strong, compact defensive back that can also support the run. Reynolds has average size (5’ 10” 189 lbs.), but is extremely strong (20 225-lb. reps) and a superior athlete. Not only is Reynolds tough and dependable, but he also displays great character both on and off the field. Reynolds would be an excellent compliment to Jason Verrett, allowing the Carolina Panthers to dominate the new-look NFL at the corners for years to come.
Round 5, 168th overall pick: James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
A broken leg effected Hurst’s draft stock, but the big (6’ 5” 296 lbs.) tackle was considered an early round choice before the injury prevented him from working out for any teams in this very deep draft class, specifically for tackles. Hurst has a large, solid frame and is very strong at the point of attack. A very patient blocker, Hurst has great second level ability and is very dependable, setting a school record for starts (49) playing every game at left tackle. Hurst could be just the replacement for retired left tackle Jordan Gross the Panther’s are looking for.
Round 6, 204th overall: Zach Fulton, G, Tennessee
Fulton isn’t as revered as some of the stars on Tennessee’s offensive line, but he’s a legitimate draft candidate. The Vols’ starting right guard in 28 of their last 31 games, Fulton’s size (6’ 5” 315 lbs.) and power (25 225-lb. reps) make him ideal for drive blocking schemes, something the Carolina Panthers specialize in from time to time. Fulton isn’t quick, but has good balance and gets to the second level when necessary.
Round 7, 225th overall: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
Saunders is one of the smallest wide receivers in the draft (<5’ 9” 165 lbs.) and also lacks the frame to build muscle. As a result Saunders’ lacks power, although he doesn’t lack toughness. The positive aspect to being small is being fast, and Saunders is a fast as they get. Displaying 4.37 straight speed, Saunders’ is balanced and explosive in every aspect of receiving – he’s fast off the line of scrimmage, has explosive cuts and is very quick-footed in space. In a rapidly evolving NFL where quickness and speed are crucial, especially in the slot, Saunders could thrive helping quarterback Cam Newton in the short passing game.
The Carolina Panthers come into the 2014 NFL Draft with three specific needs: defensive back (specifically cornerback), offensive line (specifically tackle), and wide receiver. With these seven aforementioned picks the Panther’s could not only address the team’s immediate needs, they draft seven quality players with the ability to help the franchise for years to come.
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