Teddy Bridgewater is the new quarterback of the Carolina Panthers but a rebuild is needed around him, which they start strongly in this 7-round mock draft.
The Carolina Panthers have rested on the shoulders of Cam Newton since 2011. However, the No. 1 overall pick of that year’s draft has been divisive and inconsistent. And now it seems that Newton’s time is done as the Panthers, with new head coach Matt Rhule taking over, have signed Teddy Bridgewater to a lucrative three-year contract in free agency.
While Bridgewater is a gamble at quarterback, the Panthers have plenty of holes to fill. Rhule showed in college at Temple and Baylor that he can be a program-builder but now he needs to be a franchise-builder in Carolina. And there will be a ton of young talent coming in that Rhule will need to develop.
In addition to eventually parting with Newton, the Panthers also saw one of the franchise’s best players ever, linebacker Luke Kuechly, announce his shocking retirement. That creates a huge hole to fill. The Panthers also need to look at defensive tackle and cornerback after suffering big free agency losses there.
Rebuilding the Panthers isn’t going to be easy. But the 2020 NFL Draft will undoubtedly be key to doing so. General manager Marty Hurney needs to be smart in how he operates — and this is how he can do exactly that. This mock draft was simulated using The Draft Network’s mock draft machine.
Losing Kuechly is a monumental blow to the Panthers defense. Prior to his sudden retirement, he’s established himself as one of the elite modern-day linebackers in the NFL with his ability to shut down opponents both against the run and dropping into coverage. That versatility is critical to a great modern-day linebacker, who must have the size and speed to do it all. Isaiah Simmons checks every box in a major way.
The Clemson product has every trait you could ask for from an elite linebacker. His speed at all levels of the field and the ability to flip his hips even gives him the versatility to cover wide receivers while being a nightmare for tight ends and running backs. Simmons also possesses the ability to rush the passer, even if it was used sporadically in his college career.
Beyond his ability to play in the box and move sideline-to-sideline, Simmons is extremely rangy with the ability to even drop back and play safety. And this all plays into the most exciting part of the Clemson product’s game: his immense versatility positionally. At Clemson, he played all over the field, basically only not lining up at outside cornerback and defensive tackle in his career. And he excelled wherever the Tigers put him on the field.
The Panthers would be getting the game-changer they lost in Kuechly if they took Simmons with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He’d be a MIKE linebacker capable of filling the shoes left by the Carolina legend while also adding a player who can be moved all over the field.