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Mock Draft Matrix: What the experts tell us about potential Panthers, or not


INDIANAPOLIS — Coming to the scouting combine without a first-round pick is a little anticlimactic.

Most of the mock drafts don't even include you, so that creates feelings of isolation which take a significant emotional toll. Also, it's trickier for fans to know what to expect when you're trying to predict what 30 other teams are picking ahead of you are going to do.

(Note: It was much easier to do a mock draft last year when the Panthers picked first.)

But that doesn't mean that what the mock drafts say can't be useful to fans this time of year, at least in terms of expectation-setting.

So we conducted a little experiment here at, committed a math, and tried to come up with some guidance.

We collected seven mock drafts from reasonably reliable experts, including Mel Kiper Jr. and Field Yates of ESPN, Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, and Eric Edholm of, Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus, and the collected beat writers of The Athletic, who tend to zoom in a little more on particular team needs since they're covering single teams instead of the entire league.

Now, no one is suggesting that this is a perfect way of determining the ranges players are going to fall on April 25. And frankly, doing mock drafts two months before the actual draft is silly and kind of a waste of time. But it's their time and not ours, so we mind less. Besides, free agency starts in a couple of weeks, and that'll change everything.

But it can be instructive to see where certain guys fall, to give Panthers fans a range of reasonable expectations, or at least reasonable based on the expectations of the alleged experts. (Alleged Experts was also the name of my fantasy football team at church this year. I finished sixth in a 16-team league, so never ask me for fantasy advice.)

By looking at the ranges a guy might fall in, you can at least figure out which guys you can safely not spend as much time searching for YouTube highlights of and call it "watching film."

If you're a methodology nerd or a statistician, this one is fairly basic. Also, if you're a methodology nerd or a statistician, you probably already realized I was a big fat dope. But we took each mock draft, gave the first pick 32 points, the second one 31, and so forth. Then, we did some basic addition for a total score and divided it by 7 to find a simple average. Or at least as simple as sports writer math ever is.

At any rate, after many numbers, here's what we learned:

Caleb Williams

— Everybody's planning for quarterbacks to go 1-2-3 and for Marvin Harrison Jr. to be an Arizona Cardinal.

It's not really a surprise that Caleb Williams, Drake Make, and Jayden Daniels are slotted in the first three spots on the chart or that Harrison is in the first non-QB slot. Teams that need quarterbacks know they need to get them early or trade into those spots if they don't organically own them. And Harrison is generally considered a special prospect, and the Cards already have a franchise quarterback, so that one's pretty chalky.

— After that, there's a collection of dudes in the fifth through eighth slots that everyone seems to agree will be top-10 picks.

That group includes the top tackle (Joe Alt), the next two receivers (Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze), and the top pass-rusher (Dallas Turner).

Conventional wisdom suggests that these guys are so far beyond where the Panthers are picking that it's not worth spending much time thinking about them. That's not to say they're not lovely human beings; it's just math, and you can't argue with math.

Jared Verse

— Also out of the apparent range of consideration are the next nine guys in the list because there's a significant statistical break after No. 17.

So enjoy reading the names Olu Fashanu, Jared Verse, J.J. McCarthy, Taliese Fuaga, Brock Bowers, JC Latham, Terrion Arnold, Byron Murphy II, or Laiatu Latu (and those are some tremendous names). If you read them again on, it will likely be as opponents or in five years when they're free agents, maybe.

— After 17, though, there's a tightly clumped range because by the back half of a mock draft, the experts begin to diverge, and there's not nearly as much consensus.

So these are the guys that you can feel justified in wanting to know more about.

The group that includes Troy Fautanu, Quinyon Mitchell, Nate Wiggins, Tyler Guyton, Jackson-Powers Johnson, Amarius Mims, Cooper DeJean, and Brian Thomas Jr. would ostensibly be out of range since there's a clear divide from the top 25 guys on this table to the rest.

But here's the thing about the NFL Draft. Sometimes, teams do weird and unexpected stuff. And sometimes, mock drafters have no idea what's actually going to happen after the first couple of picks. Actually, the latter is most often true, but teams do call names that people aren't expecting from time to time. Mostly, the Patriots.

Brian Thomas Jr.

— Now we're getting somewhere.

With the 33rd overall pick on the horizon and 25 names already discussed, there are another 17 cats who were named at least once among this unscientific sample of seven mock drafts.

Because this experiment is conducted in a vacuum, but drafts aren't, there's no way to predict whether any of those 25 fall for a reason we don't know about yet or whether people will jump into the 25 outside the aforementioned group that seem obvious two years from now, but no one realizes today. The minute an actual team decides Washington quarterback Michael Penix is a first-rounder, it blows the entire exercise up (or pushes someone down a notch, depending on how you look at it).

At any rate, this is Club 26-42, so it stands to reason the players who could be available to the Panthers at 33 are represented. Of course, it's also possible the Panthers don't like some of these guys at all. Remember, these are mock drafts, not actual ones. And the actual scouts and GMs probably sit around and mock them for a reason.

But we went to the trouble to do the math, so here are the names.

— Graham Barton, C, Duke

— Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

— Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

— Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

— Chop Robinson, OLB, Penn State

— Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri

— Ennis Rakestraw, CB, Missouri

— Bo Nix, QB, Oregon

— Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

— Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

— Bralen Trice, DE, Washington

— Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M

— Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia

— Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon

— T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State

— Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia

— Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

So there you go; now you know who the Panthers are drafting. Or not — almost certainly not — but you know who other people think could reasonably be available. Take it for what it's worth.

And nothing against Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. I'm sure he's a delightful fellow, but I'm guessing the Panthers are not taking a quarterback with their first pick in this year's draft, too. So, as the lady said in Major League, "Well, cross him off then."

It's super-important to remember that we're two months away from the draft and that free agency will change the needs of each team. Also, that mock drafts are pretty useless except for fodder for conversation in March. So for that, we thank these brave mock drafters for their service, and here we are, having a conversation. Help yourself to some fodder.

It's also possible that some player like Penix who wasn't listed in any of the early mock drafts inserts himself into the conversation, so if a guy such as Ladd McConkey or Tez Walker or Payton Wilson or T'Vondre Sweat or Adisa Isaac becomes a factor, ... well, don't blame us, blame Mel Kiper Jr. Plenty of people do.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Mock draft matrix

(About this table: Points were awarded in inverse order for where each player was listed in each mock draft. So, the first pick got 32 points, and the 32nd pick got 1, and so forth. They were then averaged and sorted in a descending order to give a sense of the ranges of players, at least in the minds of mock drafters. If you get confused, just subtract the average number from 33, and that's where people think they should go.)

Table inside Article
Player, Pos, School Kiper Yates Athletic Brooks Jeremiah Sikkema Edholm Average
Caleb Williams, QB, USC 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32.0
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina 30 30 31 31 31 31 31 30.7
Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU 31 31 30 30 27 30 30 29.9
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State 29 29 29 29 30 29 29 29.1
Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame 26 28 23 28 28 27 26 26.6
Malik Nabers, WR, LSU 24 27 27 27 29 24 27 26.4
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington 27 26 25 26 24 28 24 25.7
Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama 25 25 21 25 22 25 25 24.0
Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State 19 23 26 20 26 19 19 21.6
Jared Verse, DE, Florida State 22 22 17 22 21 22 22 21.1
J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan 21 21 22 21 25 23 14 21.0
Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State 15 15 24 23 23 21 23 20.6
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia 23 17 28 17 15 15 28 20.4
JC Latham, OT, Alabama 28 6 20 19 19 26 20 19.7
Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama 18 18 16 18 20 18 18 17.1
Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas 20 20 12 10 17 20 21 17.1
Laiatu Latu, OLB, UCLA 11 24 19 24 12 14 16 17.1
Troy Fautanu, G, Washington 17 12 10 12 13 17 17 14.0
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo 16 14 14 11 16 13 13 13.9
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson 13 11 18 16 18 6 10 13.1
Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma 10 19 8 9 9 12 15 11.7
Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon - 16 13 - 14 16 12 10.2
Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia 9 2 15 13 3 9 9 8.6
Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa 14 8 2 8 8 8 8 8.0
Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU 5 5 7 7 10 5 11 7.1
Graham Barton, C, Duke 12 7 - 2 2 7 2 4.6
Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State 7 - 9 4 - 1 7 4.0
Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois - - - 15 - 10 3 4.0
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama - - 11 6 - 11 - 4.0
Chop Robinson, OLB, Penn State 2 - 6 14 5 - - 3.9
Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri 6 4 4 1 6 4 1 3.7
Ennis Rakestraw, CB, Missouri - 10 - - 11 - 4 3.6
Bo Nix, QB, Oregon - 13 - - - 3 - 2.9
Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona 8 - 3 3 - 2 - 2.9
Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas - 1 5 - 7 - - 1.9
Bralen Trice, DE, Washington - - - 4 - - 6 1.4
Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M - 9 - - - - - 1.3
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia 3 3 - - - - - 0.8
Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon - - - - 1 - 5 0.8
T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State 4 - - - - - - 0.6
Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia - - - - 4 - - 0.6
Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas 1 - 1 - - - - 0.3
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