Panthers (6 picks):
1:06 – Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
3:30 – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
4:15 – Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
6:10 – Amaré Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech
6:21 – Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
7:21 – Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor
The Panthers began the offseason behind an eight ball. Don’t feel too sorry for them though, because they are the ones who put themselves in such a bad position. The franchise took a shot at revitalizing Sam Darnold’s career, sending a second and fourth-round pick for the former No. 3 overall choice out of USC. Not only that, they made trades for cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and CJ Henderson, leaving them with a massive gap after their first rounder this year.
At No. 6 overall, many analysts believed that Matt Rhule would force a quarterback pick. And much to his credit, he did not. Instead, they stayed true to their board and picked the best player in the 2022 NFL Draft, Ikem Ekwonu. The mauler out of NC State will be a fixture at left tackle for the next decade.
Due to an unforeseen drop for every quarterback (aside from Kenny Pickett), the Panthers were able to trade back into the late third round to grab Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. While I am not the highest on Corral, few can argue with the value. Cade Mays is a sleeper to become a solid starter on the offensive line, as he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and still possesses high-end traits. Brandon Smith, Kalon Barnes and Amaré Barno all tested like freaks at the Combine, rounding out a very good class relative to expectations.