This week’s Mock Talk has me feeling a little hungry.
Two national draft analysts have released mock drafts with defensive end Taco Charlton as the pick for the Panthers – and one other analyst also wants an edge rusher at No. 8 in Carolina, but not the one most would think ...
Let’s see the first-round picks.
What Mel Kiper (ESPN Draft Analyst) thinks: Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan.
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“The Panthers need a pass-rusher, and Charlton has put himself in this value range,” said Kiper, in his Mock Draft 2.0, also citing Charlton’s length (he’s 6-foot-6) and 280-pound frame as beneficial to what the Panthers are looking for in their 4-3 scheme.
Kiper picked Leonard Fournette for the Panthers at No. 8 with his first mock draft of the year, but now sees an edge rusher as a greater need.
What I think: Very solid pick. When I covered Penn State, I saw Charlton hassle the soul out of then-quarterback Christian Hackenberg against a porous offensive line (he was the one who handed Hackenberg his 100th sack in less than three seasons at Penn State). At the time I thought Charlton just looked good against a bad line, but the following year he put together a really solid campaign for Michigan.
Same position, alternate option: Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wants Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, but so does everybody else. Might I suggest another Big Ten product? Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot caught the attention of Carolina personnel at the Senior Bowl but remains a fairly divisive prospect, with some projecting him as a first-rounder and others predicting he falls to the second day of the draft. Smoot could be a great pickup in a later round if Carolina does decide to snag a running back with the No. 8 pick.
What Josh Norris (NBC Sports draft analyst) thinks: Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan.
“Dave Gettleman has a size fetish at multiple positions,” said Norris in his latest projection. “Despite producing a high number of sacks the Panthers defense needs plenty of edge rushing help so they can get to the quarterback with four men on a consistent basis.”
What I think: If Garrett isn’t available, Charlton is clearly considered to be one of the top edge-rushers available ... and if not him, there is ...
What Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com draft writer) thinks: Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford.
“Thomas has the versatility to move up and down the line, and the Panthers need to upgrade their pass rush,” said Jeremiah in version 2.0 of his mock draft.
What I think: A whole lot of yes. Thomas is projected by many as the No. 2 edge rusher in this year’s draft, and man can this kid play. He works both inside and outside and shows some impressive burst on film. Even though former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is gone to Buffalo, it’s pretty likely that Carolina will still value a high level of versatility in its defensive players – and Thomas certainly fits that mold.
Same position, alternate option: Have you heard of this Taco guy? I also like Derek Barnett out of Tennessee, who is 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds but labeled a “sack artist” in his NFL Combine prospect report. Barnett is a first-rounder, but at No. 8? Maybe not.
Underdog of the Week: Elijah McGuire. No, he’s not a country music singer (but what a great name if he were), he’s a 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back out of UL-Lafayette. Norris tipped me off about this dynamic, little-known player, who racked up 4,312 rushing yards in his collegiate career, including 1,127 in 2016 with seven touchdowns – but still isn’t in many analysts’ top-10 running back lists. Oh, but that’s not all – McGuire was also used as a receiving threat, with 1,383 career yards and 10 touchdowns. When considered as an option in the slot, McGuire seems like a perfect fit for many NFL teams – they just have to hear about him, first. Good news for McGuire: He scored the only touchdown in the East-West Shrine Game this year and also nabbed a Combine invite.
Tip of the Week: Don’t rule out a safety in Round 1 – this year’s class is just that good. Ohio State’s Malik Hooker is going to be a top-10 pick despite having to miss the combine while recovering from labrum and hernia surgery. He’s that talented – and can you imagine a pairing with veteran Kurt Coleman in Carolina’s secondary?