KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carolina Panthers have their quarterback. Now, in Friday evening’s rounds two and three of the NFL Draft, they can focus on their other areas of need.
The Panthers will pick eighth in the second round and 30th in the third round. The Panthers entered the weekend clearly needing a quarterback and guys to throw to — receivers and pass-catching tight ends. Prior to the draft, GM Scott Fitterer also listed edge rushers and offensive linemen as the focal points for the team’s board.
Despite a late first-round run on receivers, four of the top six players still available, according to NFL.com’s draft rankings, are receivers or tight ends. Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt is the best player still on the board. He was a first-team All-American this year, ranking fifth in the country with 1,267 receiving yards and second with 15 touchdown catches. UNC receiver Josh Downs is the second-best receiver still available and could be the first player with local roots to be selected in this year’s draft. Pro Football Focus has Downs listed as the best receiver available. He was a second-team All-American this past year and was seventh nationally in touchdown catches.
Two tight ends are also in the top six — Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, who is coming off a knee injury that cost him most of this past season, and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer. He led the Irish in receptions in all three seasons at Notre Dame and has set the team’s receiving records for a tight end. PFF also lists Georgia’s Darnell Washington, who looks like more of a blocking tight end but can make big plays on receptions.
Looking to the third-round pick, Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman, SMU’s Rashee Rice and Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims are some of the receivers that might fall to the Panthers, as well as tight end Tucker Kraft of South Dakota State. Jonathan Mingo of Ole Miss, Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott and Wake Forest’s A.T. Perry are other receivers to consider.
NFL.com considers Georgia Tech’s Keion White the best edge rusher still on the board. PFF likes Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders, who started off as an edge rusher, USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu, Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore and LSU’s BJ Ojulari. In the third round, Auburn’s Derick Hall, Tennessee’s Byron Young and Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire could be available. So could Clemson’s K.J. Henry, who hails from Winston-Salem and played at West Forsyth High.
At offensive line, Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence is the top guard on the board, and top tackle Dawand Jones of Ohio State is right behind him. Both were rated as first-round talents by PFF. Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz is next on the OL board. TCU guard Steve Avila is also a possibility.
Another local product, NC State guard Chandler Zavala, could be available in the third round, as could Old Dominion tackle Nick Saldiveri and Alabama tackle Tyler Steen.
In addition to Downs, Perry, Zavala and Henry, other local products who could hear their names called on Friday include Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, from Greensboro and Dudley High. He’s No. 16 of the best remaining players according to PFF, but Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who surprisingly dropped out of the first round, will likely be picked first.
Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson, out of Charlotte and Mallard Creek, is a likely third-rounder. Wake Forest defensive lineman Kobie Turner is just behind him in the rankings, although other services have him sliding to day three.