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Panthers 2024 mock draft 1.0: Starting from scratch edition

The Carolina Panthers don’t have much as they enter the first weekend of the 2024 offseason.

They don’t have a general manager, they don’t have a head coach and they don’t even have first-round pick—an especially miserable prospect given that they finished with a league-worst 15 losses. So, yeah, there’s not much hope to be had either.

But even with the Panthers seemingly starting back from scratch, let’s try to give you some of that hope anyway!

Using Pro Football Focus’ NFL Mock Draft Simulator, here’s our very first mock draft of 2024:

Pick No. 33 (Second round): Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

The wideout room shouldn’t have much carryover.

DJ Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.—all of whom struggled to one degree or another this past season—are all free agents. That’ll leave quarterback Bryce Young with a 34-year-old Adam Thielen and a second-year Jonathan Mingo, who wasn’t particularly great as a rookie.

So, let’s get the franchise guy a true X receiver who can be a true No. 1.

Coleman, a ridiculously impressive specimen, fits the bill. The strong 6-foot-4, 215-pounder plays with eye-opening strength, possesses incredible ball skills and is always a threat after the catch.

Pick No. 65 (Third round): Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon

Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports
Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that’s a hog molly name if we’ve ever seen one.

If owner David Tepper and the Panthers envision the 5-foot-10 Young as a Drew Brees-like distributor, then they need to fortify the interior of the offensive line. The guard positions, which saw seven men cycle through the left and eight through the right in 2023, should be okay as long as starters Brady Christensen and Austin Corbett return to full health.

The center spot, however, could use an upgrade in pass protection. While a grader on the ground, Bradley Bozeman allowed the third-most pressures (32) at the position.

With the “White Rhino” headed for free agency after the 2024 campaign, the Panthers can take their center of the future in Powers-Johnson—one of the most potent offensive lineman in this class. He has the power, the attitude, the athleticism and the agility to man the middle for years upon years to come.

Pick No. 101 (Fourth round): Michael Hall Jr., DL, Ohio State

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Brown’s record-setting 103 tackles tells us he’s one hell of a defensive lineman. But it also tells us that he might need a little help cleaning up.

Opposing ground attacks did the Panthers dirty all season. Carolina allowed 122.4 rushing yards per game, the 10th-most in 2023.

Hall Jr. has the explosiveness to break into backfields and the versatility to line up anywhere on the line. He also brings some much-needed pass-rushing prowess to the table.

Pick No. 168 (Fifth round): Nelson Ceaser, EDGE, Houston

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of getting to the quarterback, the Panthers don’t have much in that department outside of two-time Pro Bowler Brian Burns. Heck, there are no guarantees that they’ll even have Burns next season.

Ceaser has some promising traits as a stand-up backer, as he’s headed into the NFL with a pretty solid bag of pass-rushing moves.

Pick No. 180 (Sixth round): Malik Washington, WR, Virginia

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Coleman is probably going to be awesome at the NFL level, but he can’t be the only addition to that wideout room.

The 5-foot-8, 194-pound Washington was one of the nation’s most productive receivers this season—as he reeled in 110 receptions for 1,426 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s reliable, he can find space and he can create with the ball in his hands.

Pick No. 222 (Seventh round): Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State

Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports
Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Depth was a problem for the Panthers at the cornerback position far before their guys started going down.

Smith-Wade, at 5-foot-11, can play inside and out at the pro level. He’s stout against the run and was a highly-regarded leader for the Cougars.

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Story originally appeared on Panthers Wire