Who should the Panthers target in the 2019 NFL Draft?

 By Stephen Waniewski

April 14, 2019

The 2018 Carolina Panthers season started out like a dream and finished like a nightmare. The first half of the season had the Panthers looking like a Super Bowl contender, standing at a very respectable 6-2 through eight games. However, the second half was abysmal, going 1-7 over the last half of the schedule. Those last eight games unfortunately included a seven-game losing streak and a season-ending shoulder issue for Cam Newton. Factor in mediocre free-agent signings, off-season departures of cornerstone defensive players Julius Peppers (retired), Thomas Davis (released), and suddenly, several roster needs become visible.

Panthers owner David Tepper and GM Marty Hurney. Photo by Alex Cason for CLTure

The importance of those roster needs essentially outlines the franchise’s organizational philosophy. Do you fill in All-Pro gaps on the defensive side of the ball? Do you provide talent and protection for your recently injured franchise quarterback?

David Tepper, GM Marty Hurney, and the Carolina Panthers currently have seven selections in the 2019 NFL Draft to figure it out.

  1.       First Round (16th overall)
  2.       Second Round (47th overall)
  3.       Third Round (77th overall)
  4.       Third Round (100th overall) 
  5.       Fourth Round (115th overall)
  6.       Fifth Round (154th overall)
  7.       Sixth Round (187th overall)

In a perfect dream, Tepper and the Panthers work some magic and trade up high enough to get an elite pass rusher to help ease the loss of Peppers. Someone like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa or Kentucky’s Josh Allen would be a homerun, but let’s not hold our breath. Luckily, this draft is full of quality line talent on both sides of the ball, so even if the Panthers stay put at their 16th selection they should be able to get an impact player. Keeping in mind the needs for offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and wide receiver, here are some potential targets for the Panthers in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

1st Round (16th overall)

Clelin Ferrell, Clemson – Defensive End: 6’4” 264lbs

Arguably the most valuable defensive player on a Clemson National Championship team. Since 2017, Ferrell has compiled an impressive 21 sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss. His size and power are noticeable, but his intangibles could be the real eye opener. He clearly plays with passion and everyone knows the DE position is a major need for the Panthers. Easy to imagine Ferrell penciled in as a starter for the 2019 season.

Greedy Williams, LSU – Cornerback: 6’2” 185lbs

Safety might be a bigger concern in the Panthers’ secondary but if a tall and fast (4.37 40-yard) lock- down corner is available then Carolina, which allowed 32 passing touchdowns last year, has to consider him. The consensus All-American appears to cover with ease and has the potential to be a CB1. Pair him with fellow tiger cornerback, Donte Jackson, and watch the intereptions add up. Bonus, if the Panthers continue the Thieves Ave nickname, then it is imperative to have a guy named Greedy.

D.K Metcalf, Ole Miss – Wide Receiver: 6’3” 228lbs.

Size. Speed. Strength. The prototypical big WR1. He looks like a body-builder (27 reps of 225lbs), runs like an Olympic sprinter (4.33 40 yard), and jumps like an NBA player (40.5 inch vertical). The Panthers already have some talented speedy WR’s on the roster in Moore and Samuel, but nothing like Metcalf’s big frame. NFL organizations covet his combination of athleticism and size. Carolina averaged 10.8 yards per reception and had a homely 28 receiving TDs in 2018. He would be a gift for Cam in the redzone and could propel the Panthers offense to the next level.

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State – Defensive End: 6’6” 260lbs

Sweat was first team All-SEC for the last two years, piling up 22.5 sacks and 101 tackles during his two seasons at MSU. He also ran an attention grabbing 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. No longer under the radar, and doubtful he will be available at 16, the Panthers would be beyond pleased if he is.

2nd Round (47th overall)

Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State – Defensive Lineman: 6’3” 286lbs

On a team where Nick Bosa received all the accolades and attention, this talented buckeye defensive lineman recorded 8.5 sacks last year. He is disruptive and versatile. Typically, he might be considered a first-round pick, but with the DLine depth in the 2019 Draft he could fall to Carolina.

Taylor Rapp, Washington – Safety: 6’0” 208lbs

Carolina has a true need at safety and Rapp is savvy enough to pair with veteran Eric Reid. His leadership and game knowledge have been lauded. He’s a north-south player with impressive physicality that could be a solid starter for the Panthers. 

N’Keal Harry, Arizona State – Wide Receiver: 6’2” 228lbs.

Harry had 73 catches for 1,088 yards last year. His combine numbers are similar to Metcalf’s and the Panthers would plug him in the vacated Funchess role.

Rock Ya-Sin, Temple – Cornerback: 6’0” 192lbs.  

His lack of FBS football experience worries some but his athleticism is obvious. Other team’s hesitancy could provide the Panthers with an unpolished gem. Some professional coaching seems to be all he’s missing.

Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech – Defensive End: 6’5” 271lbs

The FBS career record holder for sacks (45) knows how to get to the quarterback yet still has room to improve his techniques. Ferguson isn’t Peppers, but he’s a suitable pro for the Panthers either in the second or third round.

3rd Round (77th overall) 

J.J Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford – Wide Receiver: 6’2” 225lbs

Best case scenario is Carolina addresses needs for the offensive and defensive lines with their first two picks, then selects Jose Joaquin in the third. The former South Carolina High School Gatorade P.O.T.Y had 14 TD’s and a 16.8 yard per catch average last year for Stanford, proving he’d fit perfectly with the home squad.

Michael Jordan, Ohio State – Offensive Lineman: 6’6” 312lbs

His name is an eye-catcher for most in the Carolina area but, his talents and size will prove most relevant for the Panthers. Jordan is comfortable at center or guard position, giving Carolina quality depth and flexibility throughout the o-line.  

Darnell Savage, Maryland – Safety: 5’11” 198lbs

On the field, Savage is, well, a savage. He hits like a wrecking ball and runs very well (4.36 40 yard). Savage also has very impressive football instincts. Seems the only issue is his size; if Savage were two inches taller he’s prob a first rounder. So, look for Carolina to strongly consider him on day two.

Kalvin Harmon, North Carolina State – Wide Receiver: 6’2” 221lbs

Harmon led the ACC in receiving yards last year (1,186) but his combine numbers have teams uncertain. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in catching the ball. At one time he was thought to have first round talent, which is exactly what Carolina would like to hear about a potential third-round pick.

The Panthers still have selections in the 4th, 5th, and 6th round. Keep in mind, the rest of the draft isn’t throw-away picks either. Most people know Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, but, he’s not the only late round star. Antonio Brown (195th overall), Richard Sherman (154th overall), Tyreek Hill (165th overall), and Josh Norman (143rd overall) are all proof that impact players can be found after the first couple rounds. So, make sure to keep an eye on those later-round Carolina moves.

The 2019 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 25 and runs through Saturday, April 27.

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