Sunday, April 3, 2022

Carolina Panthers 2022 NFL Mock Draft Roundup 6.0

Throughout the year and leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, we will update our Carolina Panthers Mock Draft Roundup showing picks for the Carolina Panthers from several prominent sites and draft analysts.

The following are picks in recent mock drafts for the Panthers:

SI - Kevin Hanson (4/1)

6. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

After missing out on a trade for Deshaun Watson, Carolina's preferred quarterback prospect is a possibility here. There are 130 picks before their next selection, as the team has no second-round (Sam Darnold trade) or third-round (C.J. Henderson) pick, so seeking a trade-back partner would also make sense.

According to Fitterer, Darnold is "in the lead" for the starting quarterback job. And while he said he'd "hate to force it," he also said the Panthers "need a quarterback, and at some point you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10."

If David Tepper doesn't force the issue, Cross would fill the team's (other) biggest need. He had 1,293 pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons, per PFF, and the former five-star recruit uses his length (34½" arms) and light feet to excel in pass protection.

CBS Sports - Kyle Stackpole (4/1)

6. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

GM Scott Fitterer admitted at the NFL's annual league meetings that the Panthers are considering taking a QB. "At some point, you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10," he said. Well, if the Panthers wanted Willis, the Seahawks just swatted their first shot into the fifth row. Luckily, their second shot could result in Pickett, perhaps the prospect most capable of playing right away.

Yahoo! Sports - Eric Edholm (3/31)

6. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

This pick could help shape the remainder of Round 1. Carolina's very public display of quarterback need is nearly impossible to overlook, and yet we can't get the idea of taking a tackle here out of our brain. Still, QB trumps all other positions, and Willis appears to have the higher ceiling (and lower floor) than Pitt's Kenny Pickett, a much safer choice.

Which way will they go here, with Matt Rhule potentially fighting for his job? Absolutely a fascinating proposition -- and one we're still grappling with.

ESPN - Mike Tannenbaum (3/30)

6. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Yes, the Panthers still need a left tackle, and Ekwonu is still available. But as the stand-in GM, I'm instead thinking about the most important position on the field. Carolina missed out on Deshaun Watson and did nothing else to address a glaring weakness at quarterback. It's a consequential year for coach Matt Rhule, and the Panthers need to start putting wins on the board. Pickett has 49 career starts and is the most NFL-ready signal-caller of the bunch. Maybe it's a slight reach, but we're talking about a QB who could start right away for a team that desperately needs a better option. - Bucky Brooks (3/29)

6. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

If Matt Rhule wants to change the temperament of the Panthers' offensive line, he could opt to add the big-bodied bully from N.C. State, who will pummel defenders at the point of attack.

The Draft Network - Brentley Weissman (3/28)

6. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Taking a quarterback here will be tempting as Carolina is one of the few teams that didn't upgrade their quarterback room this offseason. However, as I look at this roster, adding a quarterback to play behind such a poor offensive line just doesn't seem like smart team building.

Charles Cross will finally give the Panthers a reliable left tackle who will allow their quarterback time to throw. Cross' ability to mirror in pass protection and climb to the second level in the run game is outstanding and he is only going to get better as he continues to add more functional strength and mass to his frame.

The Athletic - Beat Writer Mock (3/28)

6. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Joe Person: The Panthers had a large contingent at Willis' pro day and had to be impressed with his arm strength and the way his teammates responded to him. It was part of Carolina's quarterback pro day circuit that also included stops at Pittsburgh and Mississippi to watch Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral, respectively. The Panthers' very public interest in quarterbacks almost feels too over the top and could be smoke to get someone to trade up in front of them (potentially pushing Ekwonu or Neal down) or to trade with them, which would allow the Panthers to recoup some draft capital and still potentially get a tackle like Trevor Penning or Tyler Smith.

Brugler: On one hand, I'll be surprised if Willis is the pick for Carolina. On the other, it would be easy to understand. The Panthers are a quarterback-desperate franchise, and Willis is extremely talented with the character that will endear him to coaches and fan bases. But the opinion from most around the league is he will need at least a year to sit and learn before he is ready to help win football games. Can Matt Rhule afford to be patient with a young quarterback who requires time?

If the Panthers are set on drafting a quarterback, they will be trying to trade back from this pick. I think offensive tackle is still the favorite to be the pick here with Mississippi State's Charles Cross and Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning still available.

PFF - Austin Gayle (3/28)

6. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer swung and missed when they traded a second-round pick for veteran Sam Darnold and agreed to exercise his fifth-year option. The 2018 first-round pick out of USC is due an $18.8 million check from Carolina (barring a preseason trade), regardless of what the Panthers do at No. 6 overall -- their lone pick inside the first 100 selections in April's draft. I'm of the opinion that Rhule and Fitterer have to shoot for the stars in an effort to keep their key fobs working at the Panthers' facilities, and the result of that should be a quarterback here.

As has been reiterated throughout the offseason, the 2022 quarterback class is flawed. And Liberty signal-caller Malik Willis is among the most flawed and polarizing of the bunch, but his high-end athleticism and throw power combination is enough to bypass accuracy and processing concerns in a class without a complete quarterback prospect.

Do I have doubts that the situation in Carolina will draw out the best-case scenario for Willis' development? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean he isn't the best decision for the franchise right now.

MORE TEAMS: All NFL Team Mock Draft Roundups

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