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Best available: 21 to track entering Day Two

"Taking Christian set the tone for our draft, got us off to a real good start."

Now, what will general manager Dave Gettleman do for an encore?

The Panthers kicked off their 2017 draft Thursday night by selecting Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick. Friday brings the second and third rounds, and the Panthers hold three picks.

Here's a look at 21 prospects among five position groups still on the board who could make an impact in the NFL.


Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Southern Cal
Zay Jones, East Carolina
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Taywon Taylor, Western Kentucky

Wouldn't it be a crazy combination if the Panthers paired McCaffrey – a running back first with serious receiving skills – with Samuel, a wide receiver first with serious running back skills? The list of remaining talent also includes the most prolific pass-catcher in Football Bowl Subdivision history (Jones) and the most prolific in Football Championship Subdivision history (Kupp).



CB Kevin King, Washington
CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
CB Quincy Wilson, Florida
S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
S Budda Baker, Washington

Controlling the passing game is just as important as executing it in the NFL, and Gettleman has raved about the depth of this defensive back class. How about picking up a Washington DB that had his share of battles against McCaffrey in an arguable first-round talent at cornerback (King) or a rangy and multi-faceted safety (Baker)? Or double down with another PAC-12 prospect who also played in McCaffrey's home state in Awuzie?


DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State
DE Tarell Basham, Ohio
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova
DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
DT Chris Wormley, Michigan

Gettleman also has gushed about the depth of the defensive end class, and you could do worse than the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (Willis). Basham and Kpassagnon answered any lingering questions about whether they could compete with the big boys at the Senior Bowl, and a pair of prospects who competed in the state of Michigan head the inside prospects – but both have the ability to line up outside.



OT Cam Robinson, Alabama
G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
C Pat Elflein, Ohio State

Many expected Robinson and especially Lamp to be picked in the first round, so it wouldn't be surprising if neither survive the first seven picks before the Panthers go on the clock. Elflein is an intriguing prospect with perennial Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil towards the back side of his career, but might he be too expensive in terms of where he goes in the draft for the Panthers to consider taking a player for the future?


Adam Shaheen, Ashland
Gerald Everett, South Alabama
Jake Butt, Michigan

The Panthers passed on an Alabama tight end in the first round that they really liked in O.J. Howard, so would a South Alabama tight end be the next best thing? Everett and Shaheen are small-school prospects with big-time ceilings, while Butt is a proven commodity but is working his way back from a second anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered in the Orange Bowl.

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