2021 NFL draft: Final prediction for the Panthers going into first round

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Tim Weaver
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The 2021 NFL draft is just a few hours away and it’s shaping up to be a very boring affair. Five quarterbacks could be taken early, the reigning league MVP suddenly wants a trade and several teams could be looking to move up into the top 10.

Outside of the first couple of picks, nobody really knows how this draft is going to play out. Just like any football game, chaos is the real MVP – and anyone who claims they positively know for sure is selling something.

All that being said, we can make educated guesses based on what we know about this team’s situation and the reporting on the ground. When it comes to the Carolina Panthers, what happens at No. 8 overall seems to hinge on whether or not Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is available.

In any normal year, Fields would likely be the the first prospect off the board. This is a loaded QB class though and there may be a real chance that he could slip out of the top five and land in Carolina’s lap.

The most plugged-in reporters for the Panthers seem to agree that they’re extremely intrigued by Fields at the very least. Some officials within the organization believe he’s a generational talent. While that’s usually a meaningless draft-day buzzword, in Fields’ case it might actually be true. From where we’re sitting, he has the most upside in this class.

If Fields is there, we expect the Panthers to take him. If he gets taken at some point in the first seven picks, then there’s a few different directions Carolina could go in.

There may be multiple elite prospects on the board at offensive tackle and wide receiver, to name a couple of positions that are worth targeting. The Panthers might also decide to take the best defensive player available – likely linebacker Micah Parsons – who shares a Penn State connection with coach Matt Rhule.

While there are some interesting talents in the top 10, if Fields isn’t there then our expectation is that the Panthers will trade down into the teens and target the top left tackle that’s still there. GM Scott Fitterer says the team has 16 first-round grades this year – so moving down should net them one of their preferred OT prospects.

Enjoy the draft and check back at Panthers Wire for news and analysis on each pick as they come in throughout the weekend.

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