Panthers enter draft still looking for franchise QB
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina
The Carolina Panthers are desperate to find a franchise quarterback – and a left tackle to protect him.
Such is the dilemma the Panthers face ahead of the NFL Draft, where they hold the sixth overall selection.
For now, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker are the only quarterbacks on the roster, though that should change soon.
The Panthers attempted to meet their dire need for a quarterback this offseason, making a good move at Deshaun Watson before being pushed away by the controversial QB.
Carolina will likely have its pick of the top three quarterbacks in the draft at No. 6 — Liberty’s Malik Willis, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Mississippi’s Matt Corral.
And while Panthers coach Matt Rhule has said at NFL owners’ meetings that he expects at least one quarterback to be selected in the top 10, it might be interesting to take one of them from #6.
“Part of that process was really assessing the commercial market and evaluating the project; see who’s there,” Rhule told the team’s website. “I think we will be aggressive in every sense of the word, as we have been. Just try to make sure we make the best decision possible.
It’s unclear if Rhule would be willing to wait to develop a young quarterback given his uncertain future with the team after going 5-11 and 5-12 in his first two seasons at Carolina.
The quickest path to more wins might be to select a left tackle at No. 6 and meet the quarterback’s need in a trade.
The Panthers could still make a play for Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield or San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, two quarterbacks who are expected to be moved at some point this offseason. There is also growing uncertainty over Kyler Murray’s status in Arizona, given his contract situation.
The Panthers are intrigued by North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal, though both could be off the board before picking. They are not believed to be that high on Mississippi State’s Charles Cross.
Another option GM Scott Fitterer has is to negotiate and acquire additional draft picks — which would make sense since the Panthers don’t have a second- or third-round pick after trading them for Darnold and the cornerback CJ Henderson last year.
EDGE RUSHER AN OPTION
There is another joker at #6.
In the spirit of taking “the best player available,” it’s entirely possible the Panthers will go after a rusher if Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon‘s Kayvon Thibodeaux unexpectedly drop into the top five.
The Panthers lost their best forward Haason Reddick (11 sacks, two forced fumbles) last season to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said he expects Reddick’s spot to be filled by a committee led by Frankie Luvu, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a top-notch passing thrower facing Brian Burns – especially if they aren’t sold on any of the quarterbacks. or offensive tackles available.
NO TO MAYFIELD?
Wide receiver Robby Anderson is a Carolina player who apparently doesn’t want the team to trade for Mayfield.
After an NFL Network report listed Carolina as one of the potential landing spots for Mayfield, Anderson responded to the report on his Instagram account, writing, “Nooooo.”
The Panthers would like to move Darnold before the draft, but that’s unlikely to happen given they took the fifth-year option on his contract last year and are on the hook for 18.9. million dollars below the ceiling.
New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said this week that he sees Darnold as the team’s “building starter” at the moment.
“I think Sam has magic in his game,” McAdoo said. “I think he’s got athleticism going for him. I’m delighted to work with Sam. We’ve been working the last few days here to get up to speed on the attack. And he’s shown flashes of being a good player in this league.
But it’s important to note that McAdoo once said in a New York Post article that he felt Darnold had a “fundamental flaw” in his passing motion.
Snow said this week that safety is an area the Panthers need at some point in the NFL Draft, which is surprising given that Jeremy Chinn will remain in that role and the team signed the free agent. Xavier Woods and re-signed Juston Burris and Sean Chandler. .
Snow pointed to the spate of safety injuries last season that had a negative impact on the team.
After the sixth overall pick, the Panthers don’t have another selection until the fourth round (No. 137). They have two picks in the fifth round (144 and 149) and one pick each in the sixth (199) and seventh (242).
Given Fitterer’s history of day trading, these numbers are subject to change.
The second-year general manager made four trades on day two of the draft last year alone.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL