KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Panthers addressed two of their biggest remaining needs with their picks on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. After choosing quarterback Bryce Young with the first overall pick on Thursday, the Panthers were looking to add help at a pass-catching position — either tight end or receiver — and edge rushing.
With the eighth pick in the second round, 39th overall, the Panthers were on the clock again and gave Young a target — wide receiver Jonathan Mingo out of Ole Miss. It marked the second time in three drafts that the Panthers have selected players from SEC teams with their first two picks, and out of their first two picks in the last six drafts — a total of 12 players — eight have come from college football’s best conference.
Mingo joins quarterback Matt Corral, drafted out of Ole Miss in the third round last year, on the Panthers roster. Mingo was rated the No. 83 prospect in the draft by PFF and was No. 64 at NFL.com.
At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Mingo is a stout and sturdy receiver that PFF described as “almost running back-like”.
“I’m a physical guy, big for a receiver,” he said in a Zoom call with the Panthers media. “I can use that to my benefit. And I’m quicker than most defensive backs think.”
Mingo had an inkling that the Panthers would choose him, thanks to an Ole Miss connection.
“(Panthers wide receivers coach Stanley) Jefferson —his son Van used to play at Ole Miss before he transferred,” Mingo said. “He’s a Mississippi guy, and we hit it off pretty good. He told me if I was there, they were going to take me. They were the only team that told me that.”
With all the smoke screens and misinformation around the draft, that was no guarantee.
“My agent told me it was between me, an offensive lineman and a tight end. I saw two tight ends come off the board and thought it might be me.”
Sure enough, at pick 39, he was there. “The clock started and I said, ‘Man, we’re already 30 seconds in. Why hasn’t the call come in?’”
A few seconds later, it did, and Mingo will be catching balls from a former SEC foe in Young.
“He’s a game-changer,” Mingo said of his new quarterback. “I’m happy to be on the same team as Bryce Young. I lost to him a few times over the years.”
The Panthers then settled in for a long wait before their next pick, scheduled to come at No. 30 of the third round, 93rd overall. Carolina decided to jump the gun, however, trading up to 80th overall. The 13-spot jump also cost them their fourth round pick, 132nd overall, which they sent to Pittsburgh to change spots with the Steelers in the third.
With the pick, Carolina addressed their edge rusher need, choosing Oregon outside linebacker D.J. Johnson, who will rush the passer in the Panthers’ new 3-4 defense. Johnson started his career at Miami but transferred after his freshman year. He had 8.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks with the Ducks as a senior this past season. He also had the fourth-best 40 time and 10-yard split of all edge rushers at the combine.
He’s the first Oregon player drafted by Carolina since Kenjon Barner in 2013 and the earliest Duck to be taken by the Panthers since running back Jonathan Stewart, who was on hand at the draft on Friday to help announce the Panthers’ picks, in 2008.
The Panthers will likely focus on offensive line help on Day 3 of the draft on Saturday and may also still be shopping for a pass-catching tight end.
Several players who spent their high school or college playing days in North Carolina also heard their names called on Friday. Georgia Tech pass rusher Keion White led the way. The Raleigh-born alumnus of Garner Magnet was taken by the Patriots with the 15th pick of the second round, No. 46 overall.
Hendon Hooker, the Tennessee quarterback who got his start at Greensboro’s Dudley High, was taken No. 5 in the third round, 68th overall, by the Detroit Lions.
UNC receiver Josh Downs was taken by the Indianapolis Colts at No. 16 in the third round, 79th overall. He’s the first Tar Heel taken by the Colts since fourth round linebacker David Thornton in 2002 and the earliest drafted by the Colts since defensive end Donnell Thompson was taken in the first round in 1981.
Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson, who went to Winston-Salem’s West Forsyth High, was taken by the Ravens at No. 23 in the third, 86th overall.
Wake Forest defensive tackle Kobie Turner went to the Rams at No. 26 in the third, 89th overall. He’s the first Demon Deacon taken by the Rams since receiver Chris Givens was selected in the fourth round in 2012. It’s the earliest the franchise has ever drafted a Wake Forest player.