CHARLOTTE - With the dust settling from last night's Super Bowl and over a week removed from the Senior Bowl, it's time to return to the Mock Drafts.
In the first version of the Mock Draft Report, Mississippi offensive tackle Charles Cross was a near-unanimous choice. Things are more varied this time with more attention on the quarterbacks. Read more about Liberty's Malik Willis and Pitt's Kenny Pickett from Darin Gantt down in Mobile two weeks ago.
CYNTHIA FRELUND: I fully expect this one to be a subject of some texts/tweets. This pick provides a peek into how my model deals with strategy:
- The current team. Jeremy Chinn is nasty. The corners are healthier … Jaycee Horn will be back from injury and my model forecasts him living up to his eighth overall selection, and A.J. Bouye is slated to return from injury, too, which creates the opportunity to not have to overpay at that position.
- The situation. The Panthers need to overhaul their O-line. But there are many ways to do this, and free agency (ahem, money) and later-round picks have a combined higher probability of yielding more favorable results for next season than using this pick on a lineman.
- The player. Hamilton has uniquely valuable traits; he should measure in around 6-4, which is tall for the position. He also has top-95th percentile body control from his Notre Dame film, which is evidenced by his versatility to haul in interceptions, break up passes, blitz efficiently and shut down slot receivers.
- The big-picture strategy. Two-safety shells forecast to be the anecdote to the up-and-coming QB styles (think Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow) and a very useful solution in defending the increasingly seen used-on-passing-downs TEs.
JORDAN REID: After the Panthers played musical chairs with quarterbacks in 2021, they take a swing on the raw talent of Willis. The big QB decision they have is this: Do they go with the class' most physically gifted thrower in Willis or think about Kenny Pickett, who's more ready to play right away? Willis is a long-term project, so the challenging part for the Panthers is remaining patient and developing him considering the pressure on the coaching staff to win entering Year 3 for Matt Rhule. This could also be a spot to watch for a trade down, and Carolina -- which hasn't drafted an offensive lineman in Round 1 since Jeff Otah in 2008 -- could look to the O-line, too.
JOSH EDWARDS: CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora is hearing that the Panthers are very interested in Pickett. Owner David Tepper is a big booster for the University of Pittsburgh, which is where Pickett played, and head coach Matt Rhule had actually secured a commitment from Pickett when he was serving as the head coach at Temple. Rhule has shown an inclination to bring in players in which he has familiarity and there is no reason to think it ends with Robby Anderson and PJ Walker.
SETH GALINA: Some believe that Ekwonu is the best tackle prospect in the draft, so the Panthers would be wise to select him at sixth overall. He’s a mauler in the run game but still has some kinks to work out in pass protection. However, if Carolina wants to get the best out of whoever is starts at quarterback, finding a franchise tackle is key.
JOE MARINO: Before you feel the urge to yell at me for this not being an offensive lineman, please refer to my plan to fix the Carolina Panthers offensive line before the draft and open to door to select a quarterback. With that out of the way, please open your mind to a quarterback.
While the common pick for Carolina has been Kenny Pickett, it's time to start talking about Malik Willis as the first quarterback off the board. He brings a combination of arm talent and mobility that is unmatched in this class. There is untapped potential with Willis that makes him the quarterback with the highest ceiling in the draft. If you are going to roll the dice on a quarterback, bet on traits and that's what Willis provides.
View practice photos of college prospects during Thursday's practice inside South Alabama's facility at the Senior Bowl.