Analyzing all of the Panthers’ picks in Dane Brugler’s 7-round mock draft

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Nothing says spring like pollen-covered cars, the return of birds chirping in the trees and… seven-round teasing.

It’s one thing to create seven-round simulations on individual teams, which this author has done twice. It’s another to win all 32 teams’ picks, a bonanza of 257 players who Athleticism Dane Brugler pulled it off this week with aplomb.

We could try to continue to dwell poetically on the renewal of life and other deep symbolisms linked to spring. But you are here for football. So let’s move on to analyzing Brugler’s picks for the Panthers – his (via “The Beast”) and mine.

Brugler’s mockery: the Panthers’ choices




Ladd McConkey




TJ Tampa




Jonathan Brooks




Ben Sinnott




Cedric Johnson




Beau Brade




Josias Ezirim


Round 2, choice 33

Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

Brugler: He only played nine games in 2023 (just one start) due to injuries, but there was a noticeable impact when he was on the field. A difficult player to cover one-on-one, McConkey accelerates his long speed to put himself on the guards of the cornerbacks, then snatches the break point thanks to his speed in the short zone. Although his lack of length and smaller hands hurt his catch radius, he plays with competitive ball skills and doesn’t force the quarterback to be perfect on field goals. Overall, McConkey’s size and susceptibility to injury aren’t ideal, but he is a sudden, skilled route runner and uses synchronized jolts to tie up defensive backs. He is a quarterback-friendly target with the inside-outside versatility needed to be a quality No. 2 option for an NFL offense.

Person: If the Panthers stay at 33 and don’t trade the first pick on Day 2, I have a feeling McConkey could be in play. But as mentioned in this space previously, trading up — and still picking just six picks later at 39 years – will provide Dan Morgan with a gift-wrapped opportunity to improve his team now and in the future (with the potential to land a Day-2 pick next year as part of a trade-in scenario). Hell, McConkey might still be available at age 39 if teams in need of receivers are wary of his small size and injury history. Otherwise, the Panthers can choose from other players expected to be on the board in the second round (Xavier Legette, Xavier Worthy, Keon Coleman, Troy Franklin) or later (Malachi Corley, Devontez Walker, Jalen McMillan).

Ladd McConkey averaged 15.9 yards on his 30 receptions in nine games for Georgia last season. (Sam Navarro / USA Today)

Round 2, choice 39

TJ Tampa, BC, Iowa State

Brugler: Tampa has the ingredients to be a press corner, but he did his best on tape from coverage, where he accurately saw through receivers to the quarterback and overlap zones to drive on throws. Although he only has three interceptions on his college resume, he plays the ball well, with the timing to attack the catch point simultaneously with receivers. Overall, Tampa gets a little sticky with its footwork at the top of routes, but it doesn’t lose much separation and plays with size, reach and ball skills to be disruptive. He has the tools and potential to be a starting perimeter cornerback in various programs.

Person: I don’t think it’s a question of if the Panthers take a cornerback in the draft, but when. If it’s as early as Brugler predicts here, it’s likely an indication that Morgan and Dave Canales will let a rookie (Tampa in this case) compete with Dane Jackson for the starting spot opposite Jaycee Horn rather than draft the veteran Stephon Gilmore. If it’s later in the draft, Gilmore could be in play. It’s hard to argue with Tampa’s size (6-1, 194) or athleticism. Georgia coach Kirby Smart reportedly made a late push for Tampa after seeing him in a seven-on-seven tournament, while Iowa State coaches initially recruited him as a receiver. And if he didn’t complete many passes, he didn’t concede much either. According to Brugler, Tampa has allowed one touchdown over its last 934 defensive snaps.

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Round 3, pick #65

Jonathon Brooks, RB, Texas

Brugler: Despite a wide gait and long legs, Brooks is a controlled and instinctive runner who forces missed tackles with his subtle ability to set up defenders and chain moves with precise, timely cuts. He can be inconsistent in short-yardage situations, but provides third-down value with his promise as a blocker and natural pass-catching skills. Overall, Brooks is a springy, well-rounded athlete with an eye for route development and elusive traits to create his own yardage, both at the line of scrimmage and at the second level. Stylistically, he reminds me of Kenyan Drake, although Brooks has much better vision and big-play potential (assuming he returns to his pre-injury form).

Person: At first glance, running back doesn’t appear to be a glaring need for a team that returns its top three backs, Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders and Raheem Blackshear. But given that Carolina reportedly hosted two of the highest-rated backs in pre-draft visits — Brooks and Florida State’s Trey Benson — Canales could be looking for something more for the ground game he’s all about. Brooks only started one year at Texas after playing behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, but was in the midst of a big 2023 season before tearing his ACL with three games remaining. He still totaled 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns, while catching 25 passes for 286 yards and another touchdown.

Round 4, choice 101

Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State

Brugler: As a pass catcher, Sinnott has strong hands (two drops on 73 targets in 2023) and keeps defenders off balance with his route speed and shank quickness, creating step separation at all three levels. He doesn’t have strong holding skills, but he’s a tough position blocker who can hinder and lead in the running game. Overall, Sinnott offers some blocking value, but his controlled athleticism and reliable pass-catching skills project him best as a versatile H-back who can be flexed throughout the formation. All 32 NFL teams will appreciate his football IQ and toughness, although he won’t be a good fit for every program.

Person: Great minds think alike. Brugler and Person too. I saw the Panthers pick a tight end at 101 in each of my first two seven-round simulations, with Penn State’s Theo Johnson in the first and Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders in the second iteration. Sinnott is an intriguing choice with (or because of) an excellent story. Sinnott played six sports (that’s not a typo) at his Catholic high school in Iowa, earning all-state honors in football and baseball while playing hockey, golf, tennis and to athletics. An unstarred recruit, Sinnott turned down a scholarship offer to South Dakota and continued to Kansas State, where he became a two-time All-Big 12 pick and led the Wildcats with 676 receiving yards and six receptions. affected in 2023.

Ben Sinnott caught 49 passes for 676 yards and six touchdowns last season. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Round 5, pick #141

Cedric Johnson, Edge, Ole Miss

Brugler: Johnson is still learning how to create an effective rush sequence, but he has some interesting athletic tools and an NFL team should be able to coach him further. While he may never reach triple starter status, he can become a serviceable sub-package runner.

Person: I could see the Panthers taking a steal on a Day 3 passer, especially one who can play on special teams. Despite his lack of ideal length, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Johnson averaged nearly five sacks in four seasons at Oxford. He also received an award in 2023 given to an Ole Miss defensive player who exemplifies courage, leadership and perseverance — good qualities for a Panthers team with a first-year coach trying to establish a winning culture.

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Round 5, choice 142

Beau Brade, S, Maryland

Brugler: Brade needs to be more consistent as a ballhawk and tackle finisher, but his cerebral, confident trigger guard and athletic mentality are promising traits. He has the tools necessary for an interchangeable nickel/safety role and will play on special teams from day one.

Person: Brade won’t blow you away with his size or speed. But he led the Terps in tackles the past two seasons, co-hosts a podcast with another Maryland defensive back and was a team captain in 2023 (see note above on locker room culture) .

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Round 7, choice 240

Josiah Ezirim, OT, Eastern Kentucky

Brugler: Ezirim has athletic tools and exceptional size, but he is inexperienced and will need time with a patient coaching staff who can continue to develop his talent and build his confidence on the offensive line. He is a draft and stash prospect with developmental traits.

Person: Ezirim, 6-6 and 329 pounds, has tremendous size but is still raw after leaving the defensive line midway through his college career. I’d be more inclined to add a linebacker or defensive back in the seventh round – someone who can help immediately on special teams and potentially develop as a position player.

(TJ Tampa top photo: James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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