Carolina Panthers

Mock draft projects a trade up, but should the Panthers actually trade down?

Analyzing the Panthers' options in the 2018 NFL Draft

The Carolina Panthers have the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jourdan Rodrigue breaks down who the team might take with that pick.
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The Carolina Panthers have the 24th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jourdan Rodrigue breaks down who the team might take with that pick.

It's here! It's finally here!

OK, everybody breathe.

The 2018 NFL draft begins Thursday night at 8 p.m.

And you'd better believe analysts and writers are squeezing in their final rounds of predictions this week. For the Panthers at No. 24, a surprising trade suggestion popped up, along with a few sensible names to round out projection season.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

What King thinks: "(Ridley is) not a great deep threat, which is why he’s still hanging around here at 24. Still, the Panthers’ need at the position is huge, and Ridley’s slide past mid-round is a gift for Cam Newton."

What I think: We are seeing many mocks slide Ridley down a little as Maryland's D.J. Moore gains steam. But I think it would be very hard for the Panthers to pass up either, should they be available at No. 24, with need at the position.

Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

What Farrar thinks: "(Norv) Turner still parties like it's 1993, with heavy doses of deep drops and play-action plays that take time. In the pocket, time requires protection, and unless (Cam Newton) wants to be running for his life on every play after he takes those deep drops, the Panthers are going to have to come up with an adequate replacement for Andrew Norwell, one of the best guards in the league, who signed a mammoth contract with the Jaguars in free-agency."

What I think: Farrar isn't wrong about the Panthers' need to re-stock the line and ensure adequate protection for Newton. But I do think they might take advantage of having Taylor Moton on the roster already, and backup center/guard Tyler Larsen. I think the Panthers might address a skill position with an early pick, and use a lower pick on a guy like Billy Price, who was regarded by many to be a first-round talent before hurting his pectoral muscle at the NFL scouting combine.

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Hernandez via trade with No. 18 Seattle Seahawks

What Trapasso thinks: "The Seahawks move back to give themselves a few picks before their original second selection in this draft (No. 120 overall), and the Panthers get their left guard to fill the hole left by Norwell."

What I think: A trade is certainly viable for the Panthers in the first round. But I think it might be more beneficial to trade down, perhaps with a partner who could give a very early second-round and at least one fourth-round pick. Carolina doesn't have a fourth-rounder this year because former general manager Dave Gettleman traded it for punter Andy Lee (now with Arizona).

And their positions of highest need (receiver, defensive back) are clogged right around the late first/early second rounds. Carolina could win big with a trade back to perhaps select safety Jessie Bates with its first pick, and stock needs at guard and center later.

NFLDraftScout's Dane Brugler (Mock 5.0): D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

What Brugler thinks: "It is tough to watch Moore’s Maryland tape and not get Steve Smith vibes, which will be a welcome addition in Carolina."

What I think: As with Ridley, it might prove hard for Carolina to pass up Moore should he be available at No. 24. However, I have a hunch he might get scooped up earlier.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida

0411 Mike Hughes UCF.JPG
Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes, shown at his school's recent pro day, grew up in New Bern, N.C. John Raoux AP

What Jeremiah thinks: "Hughes didn't test all that well at the NFL scouting combine, but he plays plenty fast and adds value in the return game."

What I think: Hughes is explosive and smooth. He has the build Carolina wants in its cornerbacks. But a point of hesitation might be his off-field issues, including a misdemeanor assault charge that he faced while at North Carolina. It was dismissed upon his completion of community service, according to court documents.

Last week, NFL Network's Tom Pelissaro also spoke with Hughes about a sexual assault allegation he faced while at UNC, for which no criminal charges were filed. Pelissaro also said that Hughes has told NFL teams about the allegation and that teams have looked into the incident.

Carolina has largely been hesitant to put players with any documented off-field transgressions high on their board. However, former Panthers cornerback Daryl Worley had a 2014 battery charge expunged from his record via community service and was drafted by Carolina in 2016.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue