Round 4, No. 114: Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
Linebacker is another position the Panthers could stand to improve going forward. Shaq Thompson took a pay cut to return for 2023, but his future with the franchise will end sooner than later. With Brandon Smith waiting in the wings for one of the linebacker roles, the team should look for a more refined option alongside him.
Enter Alabama’s Henry To’oTo’o. The Crimson Tide linebacker is as steady as they come at the position, using his outstanding instincts to regularly put himself in a position to make a play. He is a sure tackler and shows the range to cover sideline to sideline with ease. To’oTo’o lacks an elite trait, but this late in the mock draft, his jack-of-all-trades ability presents excellent value.
Round 4, No. 132 (via SF): KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson
I would love to see the Panthers address the pass-rushing group earlier than this, but the board did not fall in a way to do so. However, if Carolina can snag KJ Henry toward the beginning of day three, it would go down as a massive steal. In this mock draft, it happens.
Henry is a remarkable athlete, as is evident by his elite speed grade (via RAS). The former five-star recruit isn’t the bendiest guy off the edge, but when lined up in a stand-up position, he is able to produce pressure on the pocket. Brian Burns desperately needs someone to take the attention away from him; in the right role, Henry can be that.
Round 5, No. 145: Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
The wide receiver position was left without a top-tier option following the trade of DJ Moore. But two veteran signings — Adam Thielen and DJ Chark — give them a more stable corps than you’d think. Add in Terrace Marshall Jr., and it fills out the starting trio of receivers.
Still, none of these three names inspire much optimism for the future, at least in terms of being a legitimate WR1 in the NFL. Bryce Ford-Wheaton is far from a guarantee to lead a depth chart, especially as a rookie, but with such a stacked coaching staff, he has a stronger chance of reaching his ceiling in Carolina than elsewhere.
Ford-Wheaton, at nearly 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and posted an astonishing 41-inch vertical at the NFL Combine. His production at West Virginia was underwhelming, but with the context of these workout numbers, it makes the tape look more impressive.
The talented pass catcher has all the traits to be a productive player in the league, but it will take some patience early in his career as he incorporates more routes into his game and cleans up his drops. If Richardson, Ringo, Henry, and Ford-Wheaton all pan out, the Panthers will run the NFC South for the foreseeable future. What a haul in this mock draft!