It was needed. Even with an odd situation of not having a second-round pick and having to trade up into the third-round, the Carolina Panthers had a very successful weekend during the 2022 NFL Draft.
How well? Here’s our overall grade for general manager Scott Fitterer and crew.
As stated in our mock draft, if Ickey Ekwonu fell to the Panthers at six it would almost be a no-brainer – as the tackle position is one Carolina has ignored for years and needs to be addressed for them to enter the contender column. Ekwonu, a local product from Charlotte and NC State, can slide into the starter role day one.
Carolina entered the draft without a pick in the second and third round, but traded up to snag quarterback Matt Corral – who some sites had as one of the top-ranked signal callers in the draft. It’s a risk worth taking as the Panthers clearly aren’t satisfied with current roster quarterbacks Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker.
Later in the fourth round, the Panthers selected Brandon Smith, who should compete for a starting spot, followed by edge rusher Amare Barno in the sixth round – who could be a project, but had a great showing at the combine. Also in our mock draft we selected Cade Mays and the Panthers followed suit drafting him with the 199th overall pick. Mays brings that SEC pedigree on top of playing almost every position on the offensive line while at Tennessee. These picks, along with the offseason signings, this could be the Panther’s best offensive line in over a decade.
Finally, the Panthers selected cornerback Kalon Barnes in the seventh round with the 242nd pick, who hails from Baylor. Now y’all knew Rhule wasn’t letting us go through a draft without picking one of his old players, but Barnes might pay off in the long run with decent size (5-11,183) and a 4.23 40 time. He can add depth to another weak spot on the Panthers roster and be an asset on special teams.
This weekend left many Panthers’ faithful, including myself, with a sudden rush of optimism. Time will tell, but so far things are on the right track to correct themselves before the “seven-year Jay-Z plan” Rhule mentioned.