Based on how much players have been getting paid at the position, I expect receivers might be taken earlier than expected. Thus, don't be surprised if three receivers are chosen in the opening round (though I have just two being selected.)
Carolina has shown interest in Moore, which makes a ton of sense. The team currently lacks a No. 1 receiver, and the Panthers could use this pick to change that. I could see Moore going as high as No. 15, so this seems like a steal.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Hayden Hurst, TE - The Panthers like Hurst a lot. Enough to take him at 24? Perhaps, if all the defensive backs they prefer are off the board.
2. Joshua Jackson/Jaire Alexander, CBs - Carolina needs to upgrade the secondary with multiple new defensive backs.
Rd. 2, Pk. 23
Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
The Panthers have major problems in their secondary, both at safety and cornerback. They need to spend lots of energy upgrading this area.
Rd. 3, Pk. 21
Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Greg Olsen, like Ryan Kalil, is expected to retire soon, so here's a potential replacement for him.
Rd. 3, Pk. 24
Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
The Panthers need to find several upgrades in their secondary, and they could address that area of their roster earlier than this selection.
Rd. 5, Pk. 24
Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
The Panthers could stand to upgrade their blocking, or at least find some depth on the offensive line.
Rd. 6, Pk. 23
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
The Panthers lost Jonathan Stewart this offseason, so they'll need someone new to pair with Christian McCaffrey.
Rd. 7, Pk. 16
Javon Wims, WR, Georgia
The Panthers bookend their draft with receivers, as they need to find as many weapons as possible for Cam Newton.
Rd. 7, Pk. 24
Tre Herndon, CB, Vanderbilt
Given how desperate the Panthers are to upgrade their secondary, they may want to use multiple picks on cornerbacks.
It would make sense for the Panthers to give up one of their second-rounders to move up for Leonard Fournette. He could be phenomenal for Carolina and would match up well against some of the undersized defensive lines in the NFC South. If the Panthers don't move up for Fournette, I could see them taking McCaffrey given his running ability, great football character, and what he would bring to their passing attack.
In 2016, McCaffrey averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 37 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns through the air, too. McCaffrey also was a dangerous punt returner.
In my opinion, McCaffrey should have won the 2015 Heisman Trophy because he carried Stanford all season. McCaffrey was a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touched the ball. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field with vision, cutting ability and elusiveness. In 2015, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores.
McCaffrey (5-11, 202) looks undersized, but he still should be a first or second-rounder. Teams love his work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Demarcus Walker, DE/3-4OLB, Florida State
The Panthers grab an edge rusher to groom behind Julius Peppers.
In 2016, Walker totaled 68 tackles with those 16 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two passes batted. He caught fire in the second half against Ole Miss to record 4.5 sacks and help lead Florida State to a huge comeback win over the Rebels.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder broke out in 2015 with 10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, five passes broken up and 58 tackles. He was a tough edge rusher for the Seminoles. Sources told me that they were projecting Walker to the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft prior to him announcing he would return for his senior year.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
David Sharpe, OT, Florida
The Panthers could use a right tackle candidate considering the uncertain status for Michael Oher.
Sharpe was a solid left tackle for the Gators. He is a good run blocker and a better athlete with more quickness than one would think. Sharpe had a good first half against Tennessee's Derek Barnett before struggling in the second half.
For the NFL, Sharpe would probably be best as a guard or right tackle. As a sophomore in 2015, Sharpe saw action at both tackle positions. He was a good run blocker who flashed some pass-protection skills. Sharpe (6-6, 343) needs to improve his pass blocking for the NFL, but he has upside to develop. Sharpe needs to keep his weight in check and avoid lethargy.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
The Panthers could use a tight end to pair with, and develop behind, Greg Olsen.
In 2016, Hodges totaled 48 catches for 691 yards with seven touchdowns. He improved as a junior and could be one of the real value picks in the deep 2017 tight end class. In 2015, Hodges recorded 40 receptions for 530 yards and six scores. He was a redshirt freshman sensation for the Hokies in 2014 and produced the best year ever in terms of receiving production by a freshman tight end at Virginia Tech. The 2014 season saw him haul in 45 catches for 526 yards and six touchdowns.
Hodges (6-6, 257) needs to improve his blocking for the NFL, but he could be a taller version of a Jordan Reed-type tight end, or and even a Mike Evans-type receiver on the outside.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Travin Dural, WR, LSU
The Panthers grab some wide receiver depth.
Sources say that Dural had early round potential before a torn hamstring injury. Perhaps he will recover his speed and suddenness after getting further from the injury. In 2016, Dural had 28 receptions for 280 yards with one touchdown. He totaled 28 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2015, but also had two long touchdowns against Mississippi State called back on penalties. Even with inconsistent quarterback play in 2014, Dural was one of the SEC's breakout performers. He averaged 21 yards per catch with 37 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder plays larger than his size, yet has the quickness to make an impact downfield. Dural had the potential to produce more over his career, but LSU had awful quarterback play and kept the ball on the ground a lot.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval
The Panthers grab some tight end depth to go behind Greg Olsen.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Kyle Kalis, G, Michigan
The Panthers could take some interior offensive line depth and have shown interest in Kalis.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Tanner Vallejo, ILB, Boise State
The Panthers hosted Vallejo and could use some linebacker depth.
Carolina could use a No. 1 receiver. Here's a big mismatch weapon to go with the Panthers' speed problems of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. <br> <br>
In 2017, Sutton recorded 68 catches for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns. He totaled 76 receptions in 2016 for 1,246 yards - a 16.5-yard average - with 10 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder has size to him, and in 2015, he showed big-play ability by averaging 17.6 yards per catch. For the year, the redshirt freshman totaled 862 yards and nine touchdowns on 49 receptions. If Sutton finds a little more "Dez Bryant to him," aka playing more physically and bullying defensive backs, he could be tremendous in the NFL. <br> <br>
Scouting sources really like Sutton and think he is a mismatch weapon. One playoff general manager said they loved Sutton and thought he could end up becoming the best receiver from his draft class. Another scouting director told WalterFootball.com that, in studying up on players before hitting the road for college training camps before the 2016 season, Sutton's tape really stood out, and he continued to impress them over the next two seasons. Sutton is a long-strider, and sources say his speed is comparable to TCU's Josh Doctson, who the Redskins took in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Panthers have a decent receiving core, but it's missing identity. Benjamin gave them that identity, but I thought the trade to send him to Buffalo was a great move by Carolina. Now, they've opened up a receiving slot for a different type of wideout instead of just getting tall players. Christian Kirk isn't just fast, but he's explosive. He might be slightly undersized, but he makes up for it with his instincts when he has the ball. Kirk is a great, young receiver who can play slot for a long time, playing it similarly to Curtis Samuel but possibly better. Granted, I'd prefer to see the Panthers take a receiver who can make the catches he's supposed to and can fight for the first down, something they haven't had since Steve Smith, but no receiver has that skill set and a first round grade. Kirk is another player who's just too good to let slip.
I had Christian Kirk going here for the longest time. The panthers are lacking a true deep threat that helped lead them to a super bowl apperence in 2015. However after the extremely questionable trade for Torrey Smith, Carolina no longer needs that threat and lost a CB. Enter Jaire Alexander. Alexander was one of the best cornerback's at the combine, and it doesn't seem like teams are too concerned about his injury issues. Alexander also has the potential to be a true number 1 corner. Something the team has lacked since Josh Norman left.
**Previous Selection: No Change**
TRADE: The Panthers need to help Cam Newton. Nobody will argue that. But the questions regarding the quality of the WR group this year varies. The later WRs may prove to be better than the guy(s) that go round 1. Calvin Ridley is a favorite of many draft pundits, but Moore has been steadily rising. He has this viscous streak to him, and Carolina has missed that since Steve Smith was ousted. He can line up anywhere, and will compliment their current weapons well. If the rumors that Dallas are not high on Ridley are true, Carolina may have to jump them to grab their guy.
Carolina could use some youth at defensive end to eventually replace the aging Julius Peppers. <br> <br>
Hubbard totaled 43 tackles, seven sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in 2017. In 2016, he collected 46 tackles with eight for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes batted. While rotating into the game as a sophomore, Hubbard showed his potential with 6.5 sacks. He also had 28 tackles with an interception that season. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has a great skill set, but never produced up to it. Hubbard possesses a serious combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that should help him to rise during the pre-draft workouts, however. Some team sources feel that Hubbard was an underachiever and should have turned in a lot more production over his collegiate career.
Show/Hide Other Mocks with Sam Hubbard Going to Panthers
Rd. 1, Pk. 24
D.J. Moore, WR
I imagine there will be some publications who think D.J. Moore was taken too early, or that Calvin Ridley should have been the pick, but I can tell you this: One team in the teens had Moore as its No. 2 option. Moore could have gone about 8-12 selections earlier than this, so I think this is great value.
Moore definitely fills a huge need as well. The Panthers had no No. 1 receiver, thanks to the Kelvin Benjamin trade, and Moore certainly changes that.
Rd. 2, Pk. 23
Donte Jackson, CB
Wow, Donte Jackson is another player I forgot was on the board. Some people in the media had Jackson in the first round, but teams said they had high second-round grades on him. Jackson slipped a bit, so the Panthers are lucky to pick him up. Jackson, quite possibly the best slot cornerback in this class, will provide a big upgrade for Carolina's pedestrian secondary.
Rd. 3, Pk. 21
Rashaan Gaulden, CB
Rashaan Gaulden is a very versatile player who should be able to help the Panthers' atrocious secondary in some regard. I love the idea of picking Tennessee prospects because Butch Jones was such a horrible coach that he didn't get anything out of his players. Gaulden is a second-round talent.
Rd. 4, Pk. 1
Ian Thomas, TE
This is a great bargain, as Ian Thomas should've gone in the third round and maybe even could've snuck into the second frame. Thomas doesn't have much production in college, but he has immense upside. By the time he's ready to play, Greg Olsen will likely be retired.
Rd. 4, Pk. 36
Marquis Haynes, DE/3-4OLB/OLB
The Panthers traded up for a pass-rusher, which makes sense. They need some young blood on the edge, and Marquis Haynes makes sense in this range as a solid fourth-round prospect.
Rd. 5, Pk. 24
Jermaine Carter, OLB
Jermaine Carter tested very well in the lead up to the draft, running a 4.69. Still, he's a raw player who probably should've been taken in the sixth round at the earliest. He can provide depth when Thomas Davis is serving his suspension.
Rd. 7, Pk. 16
Andre Smith, ILB
Andre Smith made a poor decision by declaring early after an injury-ridden 2017 campaign. Smith has athleticism limitations and will only be a two-down run-stuffing linebacker in the very best case scenario. Smith is fortunate to be drafted.
Rd. 7, Pk. 24
Kendrick Norton, DT/NT
Kendrick Norton had a few nice moments at Miami, but was a disappointment for the most part. He should have played better than he did, so perhaps Ron Rivera will be able to get the most out of him. I had Norton in the sixth round, so there's some amount of value with this choice.