NFL analyst Mike Mayock is one of the best when it comes to pre-draft evaluations.
So he grabbed plenty of attention when his first 2017 NFL Draft Position Rankings dropped Tuesday, just two weeks away from the NFL scouting combine.
So, how does this play into the Carolina Panthers’ offseason plans?
What we know:
▪ The Panthers are taking a hard look at offensive tackle, running back, safety, tight end, receiver and defensive end.
▪ General manager Dave Gettleman agrees that this offensive tackle draft class is weak. Still, Mayock offers notable names such as Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramzcyk (No. 1 in Mayock’s offensive tackle ratings) and Troy’s Antonio Garcia (No. 3). Garcia was at the Senior Bowl last month and drew the attention of several scouts and coaches while taking reps at left tackle, the Panthers’ staff included.
▪ Mayock’s listing of Florida State running back Dalvin Cook as his No. 1 in the position group was different from what many others have projected. LSU’s Leonard Fournette was on early boards as the best back in the class, but Mayock has him at No. 2. Fournette also comes off the board to the Panthers with the No. 8 pick in the draft in many mock projections. Mayock also lists Stanford running back (and receiver, and return specialist) Christian McCaffrey as his No. 3 back, while Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara slid up the ranks to No. 4. Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon takes the 5-spot.
The Panthers are unlikely to give Mixon a look after a violent video surfaced of the running back breaking a woman’s jaw 2 1/2 years ago. Mixon has not been invited to the NFL combine as a result of the league’s 2016-enforced policy of banning players with misdemeanor or felony convictions involving violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence, a sexual offense and/or sexual assault.
▪ Malik Hooker, an Ohio State product, is still Mayock’s No. 1 safety despite the fact that he’ll miss the combine while recovering from surgery on a torn labrum and a hernia (according to Bleacher Report’s lead analyst, Matt Miller). The Panthers really want a safety, and Hooker would be a stud in the secondary. Could a private workout be in order?
Also on the list in a very, very deep safety class is Jamal Adams (LSU, No. 2), Jabrill Peppers (Michigan, No. 3), Budda Baker (Washington, No. 4) and Obi Melifonwu (UConnn, No. 5). Paired with veteran safety Kurt Coleman, any one of these players could be special.
▪ Gettleman salivated a little at Texas A&M edge-rusher Myles Garrett – but so is everyone else. Garrett is Mayock’s No. 1 edge-rusher prospect and is projected by many to be the first overall pick in the draft.
But the Panthers shouldn’t rule out Mayock’s No. 2 pick, Alabama’s Tim Williams, and more and more buzz is starting to swirl around Stanford defensive end (and Mayock’s No. 4), Solomon Thomas.
▪ Tight end Jake Butt makes Mayock’s list at No. 4 despite being in the middle of his second ACL recovery. Butt will be an absolute steal after he is cleared to play if he falls late in the draft, especially for Carolina, which is searching for the possible tandem to All-Pro veteran Greg Olsen.
But No. 1 O.J. Howard, an Alabama product, continues to dominate the projections after a dazzling Senior Bowl performance. Gettleman mentioned Howard as a prospect that impressed him, but not to be forgotten is sleeper pick Gerald Everett from South Alabama, who is Mayock’s No. 5 tight end.
▪ The Panthers are certainly searching for a prolific receiver to add spark. This draft is full of talented route-runners, which is exactly what Carolina needs. Mayock’s No. 1 receiver is Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, and following Davis are some speedy separation specialists such as Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp (No. 4).
Local (and local-ish) ties
▪ Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi might be the first from the young program to be drafted to the NFL, and all the better for him, Mayock lists Ogunjobi as his No. 3 defensive lineman.
▪ East Carolina receiver Zay Jones wowed many at the Senior Bowl, and is listed as Mayock’s No. 5 receiver. Also on the list is Clemson’s Mike Williams, at No. 2.
▪ North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is Mayock’s No. 3, behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson at No. 2. Surprisingly, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer beat out both to nab the No. 1 slot.