Matt Rhule’s vision never came to pass with the Panthers, and following his dismissal as head coach, the franchise is ready to close this ugly chapter and start fresh. The first step came Thursday when the team traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for a slew of NFL Draft picks. What will they do with this added draft capital?
Panthers Waste NFL Draft Picks on Numerous Trades
In two separate moves over the past two offseasons, Matt Rhule acquired Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. Darnold failed to be anything more than an inconsistent game manager. The same can be said about Mayfield in 2022.
Combining those two trades, the Panthers ultimately traded a second, a fourth, and a sixth-round pick. They also owe Cleveland a fifth-rounder that could become a fourth if Baker Mayfield sees enough action. Phew… that is rough. It is not all, though.
The team’s 2023 third and sixth-rounders belong to the New England Patriots. The Panthers traded their 2023 third-rounder to move up in the 2022 NFL Draft to take QB Matt Corral; the sixth is from the Stephon Gilmore trade. Carolina also will be without their seventh-round pick, which goes to Jacksonville to complete the Laviska Shenault trade.
Poorly thought-out trades highlight why the Panthers are where they are. However, San Francisco just extended them a lifeline with this McCaffrey trade package.
San Francisco 49ers Acquire Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers
Whoever the franchise hires as Matt Rhule’s replacement will have an assortment of NFL Draft picks to work with. The Panthers entered Thursday with only four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft; they nearly doubled that with the McCaffrey trade.
The San Francisco 49ers (already without a first-round pick) sent a second, third, and fourth in 2023. The Panthers also received a fifth-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft.
For what it’s worth, they have performed well when on the clock. The franchise has landed some strong, young players in the NFL Draft: Jeremy Chinn, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn, Tommy Tremble, Brady Christensen, Ikem Ekwonu, and even more came from the past three draft classes.
Adding that ascending talent to the likes of Brian Burns and DJ Moore shows that the roster is better than given credit for. That being said, these two veterans have a real chance to follow Christian McCaffrey out the door, either at the deadline or next offseason.
Life After Christian McCaffrey; Seven-Round Mock Draft
The uncertainty of what’s next for the Carolina Panthers will loom over the franchise until they land a new leader in the locker room. Trading away a beloved player like Christian McCaffrey is never easy to do. The good news is that whoever they tab as their next head coach, they’ll have plenty to work with.
It’s never too early to take a look ahead at the upcoming NFL Draft as a beacon of hope. Especially after a team makes a monster trade to acquire four draft picks (three in 2023).
The Panthers own the worst record in the NFL and would pick No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft if it took place today. They are the league’s only 1-5 team, and it’s hard to see the season turning around for them, barring a miracle.
We will work under the assumption that Carolina maintains the top pick in the draft. What should they do with their new picks to help accelerate the rebuild? Let’s find out in this Panthers’ seven-round mock draft!