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Ask The Old Guy: We will, we will mock you

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CHARLOTTE — Hey kids, mock on. Mock you like a hurricane. I want to mock and roll all night.

It feels like I'm the only person in the world not filling out a mock draft this time of year, which creates a slight sense of FOMO. But there's an even greater sense of liberation because it means I'm not wasting a bunch of time on the most pointless exercises of any year, particularly this year with the Carolina Panthers.

This just in; your mock draft is wrong.

Which is fine, because that's not an EXCLUSIVE. Everyone's mock draft is wrong, but the problem creeps in when you end up judging actual events because of the made-up opinions of others.

Whenever the Panthers take whoever they take next week, fans will make judgements based on the perceived value of those players next to the mock drafts they saw (or participated in). But what that actually means is, ... checks notes, ... nothing.

Because the Panthers pick 33rd, that means there are 32 independent variables they have no control over. Even if Dan Morgan wanted to be revealing (he doesn't), it's impossible to know what he wants to do because he doesn't have a reliable fact pattern to build off of.

And the mock drafts you see on the internet are not a reliable fact pattern. Even the most studied analysis can be thrown off by one irrational actor, and there are plenty of irrational actors in this business. And not all of these things are graded accurately, or by people who have the foggiest clue what they're talking about. We could participate in the kind of reckless speculation that seems fashionable, but it would only make me tired, and wouldn't make you any smarter.

So sure, have fun, get online and "study" for yourself. I wasted a little time by rolling through ESPN's draft simulator, and in 10 versions, found myself with seven different players at 33. And you could make a case for any of them. I also wasted a little time with's mock draft machine and saw even more possibilities. Then, I wasted a little time on Pro Football Network's mock draft generator, which allowed me to trade back a lot. Once, I ended up with a first-rounder, three second-rounders, and two thirds in next year's draft by moving back multiple times and started picking at 65.

You know what that means? I wasted a little time.

I get it; this is an entertainment product, and imagining the possibilities is fun. Just remember that it gets real next week. Also, the weather is nice. Go outside. Ride a bike. Pet a dog. Talk to a person. Listen to some music. We can hole ourselves up in windowless rooms next week.

And we will. At least then it will be real.


Dear OG, I loved the story about the April 18 Press Conference and the coordinated leadership style the coaches and front office are using to prepare for the draft. Hearing more about communicating (speaking and listening) rather than collaborating gives fans a shot of excitement and inspiration about the direction the team is heading.

We've made some improvements this year to be more competitive, and I accept, a little reluctantly, that the rebuilding will take a couple of years. I know Coach "David Copperfield" Canales won't share the magic of his scheme, and your crystal ball is in your other pants. Should all the hard work done with free agency, to be done with the draft, and to be done with the coaches and players going forward realistically have fans expecting a 5-7 win season? I know five wins is an improvement over last year, but it leaves us where several of the recent seasons left us. Last season, I wasn't expecting a division title; I was expecting only a really competitive team in the hunt, and the disappointment of what I saw left me feeling as if I were stranded in the desert. I don't want to be there again. So, please, Swami of the Mailbag, what is a reasonable expectation? You're the best, OG. — Thomas, Garner, NC

It's a novel concept, as expressed by Canales and Morgan, being on the same page. Seems normal. Isn't always. But it's a positive step, for sure.

As for predictions, I try to stay out of that business because in none of my mock 2023s did I predict they'd use seven different left guards and eight right guards and Bryce Young would be sacked 62 times. If only the crystal ball hadn't been in Ben McAdoo's other pants, we might have all known better.

But there's a logical pattern about what the Panthers have done so far, so it's reasonable to assume they should be better. Does better mean five wins? Seven? Nine? I have no idea yet.

The draft will play a part, because the Panthers still have a roster that's thin in enough spots that a few bad-luck injuries could make a mess of things. But they also play in the NFC South, which means a few bad-luck injuries (or some regression to the mean) could put any of the other teams where the Panthers were last year.

I think it's reasonable to see progress. In the journey of life, that's all you can reasonably ask, to stay pointed in the correct direction and to keep moving.

Dave Canales


Lifelong Panthers fan trapped in New England Patriots territory! Lots of change is going on, and I'm very optimistic! With the constant change of other organizations' uniforms, has there been any talk of new uniforms for us? Also, with the new rule of a third helmet, any talk of one for us? — Michael, East Falmouth, MA

There's always talk. It's the internet. There's all kinds of talk. But nothing's imminent on the uniform front.

The third helmet is for teams getting immediate makeovers. Even for the alternate second helmet, there are limits of three times per year.

The Panthers can only wear their black lids with their alternate blue jerseys or the all-black color rush outfit. And since the weather often limits the timing of alternate blues (they had to burn one at a preseason game in Washington a few years ago when the Football Team decided to wear white for a noon kickoff in August), it's a tricky balance. Nobody wants to wear black when it's hot or might be hot. These decisions are made months in advance, so football is always going to lean toward being cool rather than looking cool.

So while I can't offer you much fashion news, I can make you this week's Friend Of The Mailbag, and get you something in alternate blue headed your way, so you can stand out among all your neighbors.

Derrick Brown


Stefon Diggs, an All-Pro wide receiver with multiple Pro Bowl appearances, was traded for a future second-round pick, but the Bills also had to send back multiple picks. Haason Reddick, one of the NFL's top edge rushers, was traded to the Jets for a conditional third-round pick two years from now. L'Jarius Sneed, one of the best young corners in football, was traded to Tennessee for a future third and seventh-round pick. These are all talented players at premium positions going for less than what the Panthers obtained for Brian Burns. So, how many mea culpas have you heard from people criticizing the Panthers' new management?

I understand there was reportedly a higher trade offer a year and a half ago, but that was a completely different regime and time period. Yes, you want to sell high, but you wouldn't blame your new financial advisor for your previous one not selling a stock at its peak. The misconception I hear most often is that we held onto Burns for a year and a half for nothing, but that's not true. After we reportedly turned down the Rams' offer, the Panthers were a couple of CB injuries away from making the playoffs. I think most people would trade one first-round pick (the equivalent of what we missed out on) for our first playoff appearance since 2017.

Anyway, I know my question is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it gets tiring being the media's (and our own fans') punching bag. I know it comes with the territory, but some context would also be nice every once in a while. — Tyler, Charlotte

Get out of here with your perspective, Tyler. Shouldn't you be working on a mock draft or something?

Applying like-for-like comparisons certainly brings the deal into context, and the context is that you're only going to get a haul for a player if he has time left on his contract. And Brian didn't. So, as the man said, it is what it is.

There's also something to be said about shooting your shot when you can. If you said this team was Jaycee Horn's broken wrist against the Lions from going to the playoffs in 2022, I don't disagree with that. And the roll that team got on was interesting at a time when interesting was in short supply. Do what you can, where you can, while you can.

Dan Morgan


If Austin Corbett gets hurt again, what would we do about the center position? — Garrett, Spruce Pine, NC

Find another one, probably.

For starters, hopefully nothing happens to Austin. Enough has already.

They've got a couple of guys on the roster who can snap (such as Cade Mays and J.D. DiRenzo). I still think Brady Christensen would be good at it. And there are also options outside the current roster between the draft and free agency.

Canales was asked about Corbett Thursday, and here was his response.

"I think this is a great opportunity for Corbs," Canales began.

(Parenthetical aside: 98.4 percent of all coach nicknames for players are derived by shortening and/or adding an -s, -er, or a -ey to the end of their surnames. Jeff King was The Kinger. Men named Jones become Jones-ey. [Perhaps a nod to the legendary Indianapolis nightspot Ike and Jonesey's.] You get the picture.)

Where were we? Oh, Corbett.

"I think for him, the way that he's wired, the person, it's a great opportunity for him," Canales said of moving the longtime guard inside a spot. "You know, and if somebody falls to us that can challenge that position in that spot, then we got to take a serious look at it, you know, and that goes across the board."

You could read that as, "The Panthers are definitely drafting a center." But you could also apply that to every other position on the roster.

They could draft one, or they could add another free agent after the draft when the prices come down. I'm not sure this is the panic some people think, because I think Corbett can do this effectively, and is well. Now, he turns 29 in September and is in the last year of his contract, so you obviously would love to create a long-term succession plan there.

But you'd like to do that at every position; you just don't always get to every offseason.

Austin Corbett


There's a lot of talk about receivers, but the question is, do the Panthers need to be zooming in on one of the bigger ones? Diontae Johnson and Adam Thielen are both on the small side, so do they need to make sure they find one of the bigger ones like Keon Coleman or Xavier Legette? — Will, Rock Hill, SC

What they need to make sure they find is a good one, whatever his size. If he can run and get open, that's a plus.

Thielen is 33 years old. Johnson is entering the final year of his current contract. So, making a four-year decision (which is effectively what drafting a guy is) based on what could be a one-year circumstance isn't the wise play.

At every pick this year, the thought needs to be about the best player available rather than the best player available for the 2024 Panthers.

That could turn out to be Legette or Coleman or any number of the wideouts. Or it could be one of the ones on the small side, like Ladd McConkey or Ricky Pearsall or Malachi Corley.

Size can matter for receivers because, in a perfect world, you'd have a complementary group made up of different styles. It's more important to have an improved group, though.

Diontae Johnson, Adam Thielen, Bryce Young


Hey Darin, this is my first time submitting a question, but I'm a long-time follower! I've been a Panthers fan since '95 and have seen the good, bad, and ugly since then, but the last six years have definitely been rough. I like the changes to the front office, and I'm excited to see what Dan Morgan can do as our new GM! I personally think we still need DE, DB, WR & LB (to become Shaq Thompson's replacement) but my question is who would be your draft choices, and who do you think would be able to come in and provide an improved upgrade? Bonus question, based off current personnel how would you rank WRs on the depth chart today? — Jason, Riverside, CA

Thanks, Jason, and welcome to the 'Bag. Obviously, if you saw my mock draft, you'd know, ... oh wait.

I think they can find a starter at several positions at 33, and I feel reasonable confident they can find guys who are starting in 2025 or 2026 at 33, 39, and 65.

Corbett and Thompson get mentioned a lot, but you could make reasonable cases for a number of positions needing eventual replacements. This is true of every roster in the league, as long as there are 22 starters and (usually) seven draft picks per season. So yes, pass-rusher, interior defensive line, linebacker, safety, corner (That's the whole defense, isn't it? Yep). That goes for offense too.

I always think back to linebackers here. They had a Dan Morgan when they drafted a Jon Beason. They had a Jon Beason when they drafted a Luke Kuechly. It was never the biggest need, but the result was generations of stability in the middle.

Ask me about that receiver depth chart after next weekend. It's almost certain to change.

Thielen caught 103 balls last year. Johnson gets open as well as anyone in the league. Do they need more talent there? Of course. I'm curious to see what a new coaching staff does with guys like Ihmir Smith-Marsette and even Terrace Marshall Jr., because each of them have shown flashes of potential that could be developed.

Again, we'll know more in approximately seven or eight days.

Shaq Thompson


I was in my school's musical last week and played the Grandpa and the biology teacher in Freaky Friday: The Musical. It was very fun. How is Dom Capers doing, and what is his role for the upcoming season on the coaching staff? I know he is not a grandpa, but he is a wise and genius teacher who led two expansion franchises through their first few seasons quite well and has coached in the NFL for 50 seasons (Kind of like me, Grandpa Gordon, helping my daughter and granddaughter out after they switched bodies.) — Zach, Charlotte

Dom is great. Dom is amazing. We all love Dom and envy the pace he keeps at work and on an elliptical machine. He's in better shape than most of us.

Dom was telling a story this week about starting as a graduate assistant at Kent State in the early 70s when he worked alongside another GA named Nick Saban. Their paths kept crossing and intertwining, as coaching paths do. Then Capers was coaching the Panthers, and took a pre-draft visit to Michigan State to see a kid named Muhsin Muhammad. His coach was Saban, bringing the old GAs together again about 25 years into their careers, and that was more than 25 years ago.

When you've got 50 years in the business, you learn some things. Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero loves Dom, and credits his ability to see things others don't. That's likely because he's seen more things than anyone in the building (even Jim Caldwell). He's able to sift through a lot of noise and offer perspective.

Intelligence is good. Wisdom is better.

That's why I keep telling you to GET BACK TO CLASS, ZACH, so you can acquire more of both.

Dom Capers


Hello there Darin; it's been a minute since I've written and I hope you and your family is doing well as I've noticed you have burning up the keys on your keyboard lately, figured I'd add to your hand exercises just a little more.

I've been observing and feel extremely excited about our free agency additions and the coaching staff. Kind of reminds me of Marty Hurney and John Fox when they got together (good old days). Anyway, I've been smoking a lot of pork lately and have a lot of time on my hands to do some research on the future draft prospects and read a lot of articles. I did notice a lot of what-ifs on pick number 33, and I am possibly trading that pick. I dug a little deeper into the 2025 draft prospects and was not impressed. Being the armchair GM that I am, it seems defensively heavy. I realize it's very early, but I was wondering what your thoughts on the 2025 draft class are. Please, and thank you. Oh BTW: pulled pork with a South Carolina mustard bbq sauce on a brat is very tasty, give a try sometime. Keep Pounding! — David, Farmington, MO

I didn't know where David was going with "I've been smoking a lot of, ..."

But I'd rather try all of David's unique barbecue experiments than try to think about the 2025 draft right now. In general, I love the idea of having more picks in future years, but when you start at 33, there's only so much you're going to get for trading back.

Broke this down last week, and you're basically talking about picking up a third-rounder next year at the most, unless you're moving way down, and someone is way desperate. If a quarterback people want to compete for is available at 33, maybe. But you also need some people, and there's probably going to be one Morgan wants available to him.

I've gotten a number of reminders that Morgan and Canales do have some similarities to the Hurney-Fox pairing in several ways. That's a good thing.

Marty and John presided over the most consistent era of Panthers football in franchise history. Emulating that would be a positive.

Being on the same timeline is helpful, but being able to communicate effectively is better. And from listening to Canales and Morgan Thursday, that's clearly something they're working on.

John Fox, Marty Hurney


And on that note, let's go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.

Why did we never play Jeremy Chinn as a linebacker after his rookie year? He was so good there, but never made the same impact at safety and now we've just let him walk. It's moot at this point, but I just don't get it — Grant, Columbus, OH

I didn't understand either until last year. But if you're playing a 3-4, there's not really a linebacker spot to put a 215-pound guy in for anyone's best interest. I think Jeremy's best served as a weakside linebacker in a 4-3, where he can do Thomas Davis-type things and not get swallowed up by larger bodies. Not sure what Washington has planned for him, but he's a differently-shaped peg who only needs to find the correct-shaped hole. We've seen him make impacts. Hopefully, he can again.

Hi Darin! As you're an Old Guy around the Panthers, I was wondering if you can sense "this year, this team can click and do some damage" or "this team seems doomed for this season" before the season even starts? And if you can, what time do you sense it: start of the offseason program, training camp? Thanks! — Fernando, São Paulo, Brazil

I already decided how this year was going to go. I'll tell you all about it after it happens.

Vibes are tricky. You could tell in training camp in 2001 and 2010 it was getting weird. Last year took a few more weeks, but by the bye, you knew. Change breeds optimism always, so this offseason feels more like 2002 and 2011.

Hey Darin, share with us an insider's perspective. On "getting the football right" using your day-by-day approach, how are the Panthers looking so far? Rate each day (M-T-W-T-F) and a grade scale (A, B. C .....). Besides being hopeful, what is the coaching staff's impression of what they've got to work with this year? — Jim, Timberlake, NC

There are particular things they really like. Among them is the size up front. You can't help but see Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis walking down the hall and not realize things are very different. Mostly because you can't see a lot of hall.

They clearly got an A today, because the weather's perfect, and everybody's off. Hopefully, they're not out doing mock drafts, and hopefully, you're not either.

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