Panthers 2021 mock draft: The keeping Teddy Bridgewater scenario

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Tim Weaver
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The Carolina Panthers are expected to move on from starter Teddy Bridgewater this year after an underwhelming 2020 performance. The team has already tried to package him in a trade to the Detroit Lions and has been involved in every other veteran QB discussion this offseason.

Even the best laid plans often fail though, especially in the NFL. While they might try their darndest to acquire an upgrade, there is a possibility that the Panthers won’t be able to and Bridgewater will wind up starting again Week 1 this coming season.

Here’s the scenario for our latest 2021 mock draft: the 49ers trade for Gardner Minshew and Kyle Shanahan unlocks his star potential, the Seahawks get everyone fired by dealing Russell Wilson for Sam Darnold and the Texans stubbornly hang onto Deshaun Watson, taking all the veterans who might get traded this year off the table.

On draft day, the dice just don’t fall Carolina’s way. General manager Scott Fitterer does his best to move up from No. 8 overall for a QB, but nobody bites. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are gone with the first two picks, the Falcons take Trey Lance at No. 4 and the Eagles make Jalen Hurts’ life very awkward by picking Justin Fields at No. 6.

That takes all four of the top QB prospects off the board, leaving the Panthers with only a couple imperfect choices: take a chance on a second-tier quarterback like Mac Jones or stick with Bridgewater and try again in 2022. Here’s how it played out.

Pick No. 8: Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

As long as they're going to keep Bridgewater around they might as well protect him. Carolina finally finds an answer to the team's long-standing issues at left tackle by taking Slater in round one. While he's a little undersized for a pro tackle (6-foot-4, 315 pounds), Slater's game is polished and balanced for his age and he should thrive blocking in a spread/west coast system like Joe Brady runs. Slater will likely have some hiccups as a rookie but should develop into a respectable starter at least.

Pick No. 39: TCU S Ar'Darius Washington

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After finding their franchise left tackle, the Panthers absolutely need to turn their attention to the back end of their defense, even with Alabama's Mac Jones still available. Following the release of Tre Boston, they have another huge hole to fill at free safety. That's where Washington (5-foot-8, 179 pounds) comes in. He's physical enough to play either safety position, but his best scheme fit in the NFL could be as a free safety in a zone-heavy scheme like Carolina's.

Pick No. 73: Georgia CB Eric Stokes

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Carolina also needs more help at the cornerback positionb, even after picking up veteran Rashaa Melvin on a one-year deal. Stokes (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) fits the protypical long and lanky type of cornerback build that Seattle's front office loves, so he makes a lot of sense for Fitterer in his first draft as a GM. Stokes turned heads by running a ridiculous 4.25 second 40-yard dash at Georgia's pro day.

Pick No. 113: Clemson WR Cornell Powell

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Replacing Curtis Samuel's production at wide receiver will be easier said than done. Picking up David Moore at a discount isn't a bad move, but it also won't be enough. Powell (six-foot, 210 pounds) had a breakout 2020 season for Clemson, catching 53 passes from Trevor Lawrence and totaling 882 yards and seven touchdowns. Taking a chance on his potential in round round four isn't a terrible idea.

Pick No. 151: South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu

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Yesterday coach Matt Rhule was on hand for South Carolina's pro day. While Jaycee Horn is the big name from this school that's expected to come off the board early on, Mukuamu (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) is also worth watching in the middle rounds. He posted seven interceptions and 10 pass breakups in just 22 appearances for the Gamecocks. Doubling up at corner finally gives the Panthers the depth they need at this spot.

Pick No. 193: Notre Dame G Tommy Kraemer

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With Slater in the fold, all five starters for the team's 2021 offensive line would be set. Carolina will still need to add a few backups to make up for the interior linemen they've lost in free agency, though. Kraemer (6-foot-6, 319 pounds) could be an ideal backup at right guard behind John Miller, who just re-signed with the Panthers on a one-year deal.

Pick No. 222: Colorado DL Mustafa Johnson

Timothy Hurst, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Carolina's defensive tackle rotation has taken a serious hit during free agency with Kawann Short, Zach Kerr and Efe Obada all leaving. Even if they bring Short back, the Panthers should pick up another iDL at some point. Johnson (6-foot-2, 290 pounds) thrives against the run, earning an 82.1 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. He also posted 26 tackles for a loss during his time at Colorado.

Pick No. 226: Georgia TE Tre' McKitty

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The Panthers finally got their red zone weapon at tight end by signing Dan Arnold to a two-year deal. However, they also lost Chris Manhertz to the Jaguars, so they could use another body at this spot. They could do worse than taking a late-round flyer on the well-rounded McKitty (6-foot-5, 245 pounds), who can block and totaled three touchdowns and 628 yards at Georgia. [vertical-gallery id=635168]

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