Carolina Panthers 5-Round 2022 Mock Draft

The 2021 NFL season was disappointing for the Carolina Panthers. They posted a mediocre 5-12 record, finishing last place in the NFC South. Matt Rhule’s squad has some important questions to answer this offseason. The front office has been busy in free agency. Now, general manager Scott Fitterer turns his attention to the 2022 NFL Draft.

Carolina’s biggest question is at quarterback. Do the Panthers draft one early? The team could also stand to bolster its offensive line and front seven on defense. The front office must be savvy, as the Panthers only have one pick in the first three rounds.

Here’s how Carolina could approach the first five rounds of the upcoming draft.

Round 1, No. 6 overall: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Panthers NFL Draft target Malik Willis runs the ball during a game
Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis in action during the Lending Tree Bowll | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It’s now or never for the Carolina Panthers. They own the sixth overall pick and won’t be on the clock again until the fourth round. This team has a major quarterback problem, and if it wants to improve in 2022, it would be wise to take one here. If Malik Willis is on the board at No. 6, the Panthers should not hesitate.

Carolina acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets before the 2021 season. While he got off to a hot start, the former No. 3 overall pick fizzled out. The Panthers also brought Cam Newton back midseason, but that was another failed experiment. It’s time to adequately address the position instead of using a Band-Aid to mask it.

Willis has the potential to be the best quarterback to come out of this NFL draft class. He put up big numbers at Liberty after transferring from Auburn. He racked up 5,107 passing yards, 1,822 rushing yards, and 74 total touchdowns in two seasons with the Flames. Willis is an electric playmaker and has the upside to be the new franchise quarterback.

Round 4, No. 137 overall: Deangelo Malone, EDGE, Western Kentucky

Losing Haason Reddick in free agency was a massive loss for the Panthers. He’s coming off an 11-sack season. That leaves a glaring void on the edge opposite Pro Bowler Brian Burns. Grabbing an edge rusher at some point during the 2022 NFL Draft would be a wise strategy.

Deangelo Malone isn’t a name that many people know, but he’s a promising prospect. The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder put together a productive five-year career at Western Kentucky. He finished with 349 tackles, 59 tackles for loss, 32.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles in 61 games.

Malone is an excellent athlete who possesses an ideal combination of speed and burst. He has an explosive first step and is physical at the point of attack. The Panthers defense started the 2021 season on a high note but struggled down the stretch. Generating a consistent pass rush would go a long way to turning things around in 2022.

Round 5, No. 144 overall: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana

Carolina’s offensive line struggled with inconsistency throughout the 2021 season. The unit allowed 52 sacks on the year, which ranked fifth-most in the NFL. The Panthers also ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing offense. The front office must bolster the front line to improve offensively.

Cam Irving and Taylor Moton are the current starters at offensive tackle. Carolina recently paid Moton, and for good reason, as he was the team’s best offensive lineman in 2021. On the other hand, Irving struggled. It wouldn’t hurt to add depth or find someone who could potentially replace him.

Max Mitchell could slide to the fifth round, and the Panthers must pull the trigger if he’s on the board. The Ragin Cajuns standout earned a 94.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest among FBS offensive tackles. He allowed just 13 pressures in 430 pass-blocking snaps.

Round 5, No. 149 overall: D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian St

The Panthers addressed the linebacker position in free agency, signing Cory Littleton and Damien Wilson. Still, neither player moves the needle significantly, so it would be wise to add some depth pieces to the defense.

When Carolina is on the clock late in the fifth round, the front office isn’t necessarily looking for a Day 1 starter. However, the Panthers could find a player who has the potential to outplay his NFL Draft position. Appalachian State’s D’Marco Jackson could be that guy.

Jackson enjoyed the most productive season of his career as a senior. He recorded 119 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, six sacks, five passes defended, and one interception. Jackson has great speed for the position, and he’s also solid in pass coverage. He could pan out to be a consistent producer on special teams early on, if nothing else.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and College Football Reference

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