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Carolina Panthers NFL draft picks 2022: Analysis for every selection – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, NC–The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and every Carolina Panthers draft pick is analyzed here.

The draft was held in Las Vegas on the strip in the area adjacent to Caesars Forum two years after it was initially scheduled. The 2020 NFL draft was turned into a virtual event because of COVID-19.

Here is a pick-by-pick look at how each player Carolina selected will fit.


Round 1, No. 6 overall: Ikem EkwonuOT, NC State

My take: That the Panthers didn’t reach for a quarterback, despite the need, was smart. That they continued to build from the inside offensively showed a dedication to creating a solid foundation. Securing a left tackle after all general manager Scott Fitterer has done during the offseason to fix a line that gave up 52 sacks last season was the final missing piece.

“He’s a tone-setter,” Fitterer said of Ekwonu. “He’s a smart guy. He’s physical. He’s tough. He’s got every trait you would want in an offensive lineman.”

Drafting a left tackle was long overdue for this team that has had 16 different starters since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season.

Welcome home: It’s not often you get a chance to draft a homegrown impact player in the first round. The Panthers have done it in consecutive years. Last year, it was South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. This year it was Ekwonu, who grew up in Charlotte and started at Providence Day. It was in Charlotte that Ekwonu was nicknamed “Ickey” because a youth coach thought he resembled former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods. It was in North Carolina that Ekwonu was dubbed the “Pancake King” for his ability to flatten defenders. “It’s crazy,” Ekwonu said of being able to continue his career at home.

What set Ickey apart from the other left tackles: The last thing the Panthers expected was a choice between the top three left tackles in Ekwonu, Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s charles cross. It happened because the top five picks all surprisingly were defensive players. What set Ekwonu apart from the other two? As Fitterer reiterated, “He’s a tone-setter.” New coordinator Ben McAdoo offensive wants to build around a power running game, and none of the tackles defined that better than Ekwonu. He’s a human highlight reel of not only knocking over defenders but staying with blocks until the end. Ekwonu summed it up when he defined his style: “Violence, physicality. ”


Round 3, No. 94 overall: Matt CorralQB, Ole Miss

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Watch some of the best plays that make Ole Miss QB Matt Corral a player to watch in the NFL draft.

My take: Outside the possibly of getting Liberty’s Malik Willisthis was the best outcome for a team needing to add a young quarterback behind Sam Darnold. All Fitterer gave up was a fourth-round pick (No. 137) and next year’s third-round pick for a player coach Matt Rhule said could have been a first-rounder. Trading for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was an option if the Browns had agreed to pick up a large portion of Mayfield’s 2022 salary, according to sources. But long-term, Fitterer wanted a rookie with a low salary to develop as he did in Seattle with Russell Wilson. Corral isn’t polished, but he has the physical skills to challenge defenses with his arm and his legs. Leadership is a strength. And there’s no pressure to rush him into a starting role early as long as Darnold shows he can do the job with a revamped offensive line.


Round 4, No. 120 overall: Brandon SmithLB, Penn State

My take: General manager Scott Fitterer continues to show he’s willing to deal if there’s a player he likes. He gave Washington two fourth-round picks (Nos. 144, 149) to get No. 120 for Smith and No. 189. Smith (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) will add depth to a linebacker corps that was thin last year . His forte is athleticism and speed (4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He’ll be able to pressure off the edge as well as move inside, and he also is fast enough to matchup with tight ends.


Round 6, No. 189 overall: Amare BarnoLB, Virginia Tech

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Check out the best highlights from Amare Barno’s college career at Virginia Tech.

My take: The Panthers needed depth and speed on the edge after losing Haason Reddick in free agency, and boy does Barno have speed. He ran the 40 in 4.36 seconds at the combine, which is amazing for a 6-foot-4, 246-pound player. It was the fastest time for a defensive lineman since 2003. An overall lack of production (3.5 sacks in 12 starts) at Tech makes him a project, but the raw talent is there. He also has local ties, originally from Blythewood, South Carolina.


Round 6, No. 199 overall: Cade MaysOL, Tennessee

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Check out the best highlights that contributed to a stellar college career for Tennessee’s Cade Mays.

My take: With the starting line pretty much set, this is a depth move. Mays began his career at Georgia and transferred back home to Tennessee. He’s big (6-5, 311) with position flexibility, something coach Matt Rhule loves. I have played five different positions in college, including center. Look for the Panthers to use him inside at center and guard as a developmental player. Mays is considered a good drive blocker, and that fits the scheme new OC Ben McAdoo wants.


Round 7, No. 242 overall: kalon barnesCB, Baylor

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Check out the best highlights from Kalon Barnes’ college career at Baylor.

My take: Great value pick at the bottom of the draft, primarily because Carolina coach Matt Rhule recruited and coached Barnes at Baylor. So he’s a known commodity. Barnes also is the fastest player in the draft, having run the 40 in 4.23 seconds at the combine. You can never have too many fast corners, and Barnes will be an upgrade for special teams as well.

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