Carolina Panthers, NFL Draft

3 Panthers targets in 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Zach Wilson, BYU Cougars

Zach Wilson, BYU Cougars. (Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Matt Rhule had a solid first season in charge of the Carolina Panthers, but he needs to nail the team’s first-round NFL Draft pick to contend in 2021. 

No one really expected Matt Rhule to pilot the Panthers to a playoff berth in his first season. Instead, the goal was to establish a foundation for future success in Carolina. Rhule and his staff achieved that modest goal. Now it’s time for the Panthers to take a meaningful step forward on the field in 2021.

To make that happen, Carolina needs to come away with an impact player with their first round pick in April’s draft. The team should have several intriguing options on the board if they stay put with their No. 8 overall selection.

The biggest call Rhule needs to make this offseason is whether or not Teddy Bridgewater deserves to be the franchise’s starting quarterback for any extended period of time. If not, the team could be tempted to take a big swing for a talented young signal-caller to replace him. The first name on this list will certainly draw interest from the Panthers if he’s still on the board.

Zach Wilson

Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

Wilson came out of relatively nowhere to solidify himself as a first round pick in this year’s class. He doesn’t have the big arm that some teams require at the position, but he’s got everything else to make a modern NFL offense hum.

Rhule’s system doesn’t require elite arm strength for his quarterbacks to be successful. Instead, he wants a signal-caller who can get the ball out quickly and accurately. Wilson did that at an elite level for BYU this season. Throw in his above-average mobility and it’s easy to see why he’ll be a highly-coveted prospect in this year’s class.

The only reason Wilson doesn’t rank higher on this list is that the Panthers will likely choose to give Bridgewater another season to prove he can be their starter. He deserves the benefit of the doubt after playing most of the 2020 season without Christian McCaffrey or Russell Okung. That makes quarterback an interesting need for Carolina, but not one they absolutely have to fill in this draft.

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