We are now just under twenty days until the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the 1st overall pick. This also means we are just under twenty days until the Carolina Panthers select the future of the team with the 24th overall pick.
Over the last few days, I’ve been looking at each need for the Panthers (CB, S, TE2, G, WR, RB2, EDGE) and the prospects that have a 1st round or early 2nd round value and could be in play at 24th overall. With that said, here are ten prospects general manager Marty Hurney and co. should seriously consider once the clock starts ticking on April 26th.
CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 13
Alexander is one of the best corners in the draft and rightfully so. He can play press/off man and zone. If needed, he can come up and help against the run. He’s also a true ball hawk, racking up 7 INTs and 15 pass deflections. Alexander was injured for some of his junior season, which could lead to some teams to back away due to durability concerns, which is why he is in play for the 24th pick. By selecting Alexander and pairing him with James Bradberry, the Panthers could have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league for years to come.
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 14
Landry is another player that could tumble to Carolina due to durability concerns. He’s a natural pass rusher with a good bend and quick first step. Landry would be a nice rotational player for both Mario Addison and Julius Peppers, who could be in his swan song season. While the Panthers have youth and potential at defensive end with guys like DaeShon Hall and Bryan Cox, adding a talented pass rusher like Harold Landry (25 sacks in his college career) will have the Panthers set for the next few seasons.
CB Quenton Meeks, Stanford
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 27
Meeks is one of the most intelligent and crafty corners in the 2018 draft. He always seems to show exceptional length and patience. In press man coverage, he’s tough to get by. He feels very comfortable in zone coverage, where he seems to play his best. Meeks is also a very underrated ball hawk (7 INTs, 17 pass deflections in his career). Typically, the two types of defenses that the Panthers cornerbacks play are Press man and zone. You could say Meeks is a clone of James Bradberry but just a tad better.
S Justin Reid, Stanford
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 30
Justin Ried’s stock has been growing higher every day. He’s currently projected to go in the first round by most draft analysts. While I’m not as high on him as others, some have Reid as a top twenty-five prospect. Reid shows the ability to have a better, more balanced skill set than his brother, Eric, coming out of college. He’s very versatile, a very good tackler, and is pretty good at finding the football. He racked up 6 INTs and 14 pass deflections during his time at Stanford. If the Panthers want a young, versatile safety, Reid would be a great addition as it would fill up the glaring need at the position.
DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 32
Duke Ejiofor is another prospect that I’m falling more in love with by the day. Ejiofor uses a variety of pass rush moves like spin moves and rips to get off the edge. He’s not that athletic but he’s more of a technician when getting after the quarterback. It seems his stock is rising some and could end up being a first-round pick. Carolina, though, might be the only team willing to draft him that high.
CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 33
Oliver is a very smooth and fluid, press corner. He’s one of the best corners in terms of man to man coverage. While he tends to struggle sometimes at the line of scrimmage at the beginning of his routes plus zone and run support, he makes up for it with great length, recovery speed, and ball skills. If he can fix his struggles in zone coverage and play better in run support, Oliver would be a great pick for Carolina to pair up with Bradberry. It was reported Thursday that Oliver has only 2 visits planned, one of them being Carolina.
G Will Hernandez, UTEP
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 34
Hernandez is the perfect replacement for now-Jacksonville Jaguars Guard Andrew Norwell. He is extremely powerful and has some very powerful hands. Even though he does struggle at times in pass protection, as a run blocker, he’s like a freight train coming downhill when pulling. Team him up with 3-time Pro Bowl G Trai Turner and you got a nasty mauler crew.
S DeShon Elliott, Texas
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 36
This is a guy I’ve been very high on since he declared for the draft. Elliott can play both single high safety where he can close on to the ball deep and in the box to support the run or cover the tight end man to man. I think he can make an immediate impact from day one. Elliott projected to go sometime around Day 2 of the draft but I believe he is a legit candidate to go late in the first round. Elliott could be a steal.
WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 38
WR1. Moore is everything you want in a receiver. He’s got the catch radius, good hands, really good speed (4.42 40), playmaking ability and YAC, and the physicality like a power RB has. He’s one of my favorite players in the draft and deserves to the in the first round conversation. Even after the Panthers traded for Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright, there’s no such thing as having too much depth in the N.F.L and adding a guy like Moore to the mix with Devin Funchess could prove to help Cam Newton out big time, while also allowing for the Panthers offense to take the next step under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
My Overall Draft Board Rank: 41
Entering draft season, Ridley was considered to be and still has been WR1 for most people. While he had an average combine, on the field is where he displays his real talent. He’s one of the best route runners in this class and has some solid hands with good speed. Had it not been for inconsistent quarterback play, the Alabama product could’ve had a lot more yards and TDs. Anyway, I think Ridley would be a very solid number two option behind Funchess if Carolina decides to go with the Bama product over the rest of these guys.
Out of the ten prospects, I see no RBs or TEs worthy of being the 24th pick. I’ve seen on my Twitter timeline fans wanting LSU RB Derrius Guice, who I believe is a 3-down starter at the next level, NOT a running back that could complement Christian McCaffrey in the run game as a powerback. From what I’ve seen in recent mocks, some have Hayden Hurst or Dallas Goedert going to the Panthers at twenty-four. I don’t see it. As much as I’d love a nasty two tight end duo that features veteran Greg Olsen and Dallas Goedert or Hayden Hurst, the Panthers have far more pressing needs than tight end and that can be addressed in the later parts of the draft.
Personally, out of the ten prospects that listed above, my favorite out of the bunch would either be Jaire Alexander or DJ Moore. Both are big-time playmakers, who should have immediate impacts at the next level.
For more NFL Draft analysis and rankings, follow me on Twitter @JrodDraftScout.