Now that the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, it's time to kick off another notable unofficial period on the offseason calendar. Welcome to mock draft season.
The NFL Draft starts April 30, but speculation about the draft always kicks into high gear after all the prospects strut their stuff at the combine. Beginning this week and continuing through the eve of the draft, Panthers.com will offer a weekly look at what various mock drafts are forecasting for Carolina.
Throughout the buildup to the draft but especially this far out, mock drafts often are built around team need as much as anything. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many of the mocks published since the combine concluded predict that the Panthers will use the 25th overall pick on an offensive tackle.
OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com
"The Panthers need offensive line help in the worst way and unless they address the position in free agency, tackle is the favorite to be the pick here," writes Brugler, who says Clemmings is a dominant run blocker who still needs to develop as a pass protector.
Free agency opens March 10, and although the Panthers appear to be in better position than the past couple of years to be active, the crop of free agent tackles isn't very deep.
OT La'el Collins, LSU
Charlie Campbell at WalterFootball.com
Campbell seems convinced that the Panthers need a left tackle but doesn't seem convinced that Collins is the answer even though he slots him here. Campbell wonders if Collins would be best served as a right tackle or perhaps even a guard at the start of his NFL career. Other observers, however, are higher on Collins, not slotting him to Carolina because they believe he'll be chosen before the Panthers pick.
OT Ereck Flowers, Miami
Don Banks at SI.com
Banks, too, says the Panthers' top priority must be to "make sure Cam Newton absorbs less punishment next season." He believes Carolina will find itself deciding between Flowers and Collins in the first round.
OT Cameron Erving, Florida State
Pat Kirwan at CBSSports.com
While most draft analysts are higher on Clemmings and Collins, Kirwan came away from Senior Bowl practices more impressed by Erving, praising his athleticism. Speaking of athletic, Kirwan also throws out his theory that the Panthers will target a speedy receiver in the second round.
OT D.J. Humphries, Florida
Rob Rang at CBSSports.com
Rang liked what the Panthers did at receiver last year with the first-round selection of Kelvin Benjamin and the acquisition of veteran Jerricho Cotchery for quarterback Cam Newton but says Carolina "failed to improve the offensive line protecting him. They won't make the same mistake this year. Humphries is a bit raw but is one of the few tackles in this class athletic enough to remain on the left side in the NFL."