1. First Round, 14th overall: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
This may be one of the most popular mock draft picks out there right now, and that’s because it really makes a lot of sense. The Panthers tried going last year with the DT group they had assembled, and they do have some solid rotational players, but they need a stud on the interior to play with their nice couple of edge rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Hardy and Johnson finished last year both with double digit sack totals, and Richardson is a guy who can make them even better. In a defense coached by Ron Rivera, Richardson could be a similar type of impact that Tommie Harris was for him in Chicago. The Bears under Rivera were known for rushing the passer from the interior, and Richardson is as perfect of a fit as anyone in this draft to play in Carolina’s system. I think his quickness and athletic ability set him apart for this pick from other DTs in this draft, though the Panthers could opt for a bit more size and go with Sylvester Williams of North Carolina here.
2. Second Round, 44th overall: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
The Panthers let go of Chris Gamble this offseason, and cornerback is looking like one of their top needs coming into this year’s draft. Hayden is a guy who has first round potential and might be long gone by the time this pick rolls, around, but he’d be excellent value for the Panthers looking for a corner who can close on the ball unlike many others in this draft, and a guy who has excellent speed. Hayden brings a fiery competitive demeanor to the game, and paired with Josh Norman and/or Captain Munnerlyn, he could be a really nice asset. The Panthers also added D.J. Moore from the Bears, who should be a solid fit for their scheme, but I think CB is going to be an area they look to address with one of their first three picks.
3. Fourth Round, 108th overall: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
As the Panthers continue to make upgrades to their secondary, one of the top places they have to look is the safety position. This could be a position they look to in the first or second rounds as well, but with a potentially explosive pass rush, you have to add guys on the back end who can consistently make plays. T.J. McDonald is a bigger safety prospect, who can hit like a ton of bricks and provide an extremely athletic option on the back end for the Panthers. He could pair with Charles Godfrey at the safety position and give the Panthers a really nice value in the early portion of the fourth round.