Panthers seven-round mock draft 2020: Carolina gets potential QB of the future in otherwise defense-heavy mock

The Carolina Panthers are entering a period that is likely to bring with it intense change. They fired longtime coach Ron Rivera last season, and in his place hired Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who was given a seven-year deal. The team has already made several moves this offseason that indicate it is thinking about a long-term rebuilding project, which is part of what makes it one of the most interesting teams in the upcoming NFL Draft.

In Chris Trapasso’s seven-round 2020 NFL mock draft, released earlier this week, Carolina loads up on defensive prospects, but also uses a Day 2 selection on a potential quarterback of the future. 

Day 1 

Round 1, No. 7 overall: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Okudah is widely considered the top cornerback prospect in this class. Having him fall to No. 7 overall is a coup for the Panthers, who could very well lose top corner James Bradberry in free agency. Okudah allowed a passer rating of just 45.3 on 59 throws in his direction last season, according to Pro Football Focus; and yes, you read that correctly. He is also an extraordinary athlete, testing in the 99th percentile for athleticism among NFL corners. He has everything you look for in a corner: size, length, coverage skills, and last year he picked off three passes and deflected 11 more. When remaking a defense, you can’t do much better than a shutdown corner. That’s what the Panthers get here.

Day 2  

Round 2, No. 38 overall: Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma 
Round 3, No. 69 overall: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Gallimore gives the Panthers a strong presence up the middle against both the run and the pass. He finished last season with a 14.2 percent pass-rush win rate, per PFF, as well as 13 run stops on only 183 run-defense snaps. He showed the ability to line up in the A- and B-gaps, and last season set career highs in both sacks and tackles for loss. 

Meanwhile, the Panthers insist Cam Newton will be their quarterback next season … but what can they really say while he’s still injured? He can’t be cut anyway, so the Panthers have to project the idea that he’ll be there and they’re happy about it. But that doesn’t mean he’s the long-term answer. Enter Hurts, who showed great improvement last season and has been one of the fastest-rising prospects since the combine. We know the Panthers are in it for the long haul after giving Rhule a seven-year deal, and they could take some time to develop Hurts — behind Newton or someone else — before handing him the reins in a year or two. 

Day 3

Round 4, No. 113 overall: Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Round 5, No. 152 overall: Michael Onwenu, OL, Michigan
Round 6, No. 184 overall: Derrek Tuszka, EDGE, North Dakota State
Round 7, No. 221 overall: Tanner Muse, S, Clemson

On Day 3, Carolina adds one prospect at each level of the defense. Tuszka finished his collegiate career fifth in NDSU history with 29.5 sacks, securing himself a combine invite. He tested out about as well as Wisconsin edge rusher Zach Baun, though he obviously does not have the same pedigree. Still, you can do a lot worse than adding an athletic, productive edge rusher late in the draft.

Bailey only played two games for the Boilermakers in 2019, but he totaled 13.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss over the previous two seasons. He’s an extremely versatile and productive player, but he now has multiple ACL tears in his past.

Muse is one of the less-heralded Clemson prospects, but his overall production showcases his versatility: in 2018 and 2019 he combined for 115 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, six interceptions, and eight passes defensed. 

Onwenu is a monster-sized (6-foot-2, 345 pounds) guard prospect the Panthers could develop into a credible backup or starter down the line. 

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