After a 5-11 season that saw the addition of a full defensive draft haul, Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers will be looking to elevate the performance of their bottom-half offense in the 2021 NFL draft. Although the defensive unit also ranked towards the bottom of the league, bright spots of youth in players such as Jeremy Chinn bring hope for growth in 2021.
Led by free-agent addition Teddy Bridgewater, the offense operated as intended but lacked the sort of spark to make a push in a competitive NFC South. Throwing 15 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and less than 4,000 yards, Bridgewater managed the offense well but showed a lack of independent production in the absence of franchise halfback Christian McCaffrey.
Moving into the 2021 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will likely be seeking a more balanced approach to their draft haul, addressing individual issues on each side of the ball rather than opting for another overarching restructure of personnel across the entirety of a unit.
In a bid to ensure the acquisition of their future franchise quarterback, the Carolina Panthers leapfrog the Stafford-less Detroit Lions in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Moving up two spots in the first round at the cost of their third-round selection in exchange for the Philadelphia Eagles’ seventh-round selection, the projection of a quarterback-heavy beginning of the 2021 NFL draft rings true in this mock draft scenario.
With their newly-acquired first-round selection, the Carolina Panthers opt for the developmental selection of the 2021 NFL draft in Trey Lance. Having only played a single season for FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, Lance is the next in line of a recent wave of quarterbacks out of the small-school to enter the NFL with high hopes and impressive stat lines.
Operating as an efficient dual-threat quarterback, Lance completed 66.9% of passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions. Paired with 1,100 rushing yards on 169 attempts for 11 touchdowns, Lance is a stat-sheet buster who managed to shoulder the load of the offense in his sophomore season.
Paired with the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at six-foot-four and a strong enough arm to reach long-developing play-action routes along the boundary, Lance has the physical tools to start at the NFL level.
Before taking regular-season snaps under center though, Lance will need time to acclimate to the speed of the NFL from FCS play and become more consistent in making reads to manage the game.