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2020 NFL mock draft: Derrick Brown’s versatility can help turn around the Panthers’ defense

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The Panthers had the worst run defense in 2019, but that gets fixed in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are starting over. After nine seasons under head coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers hired Baylor’s Matt Rhule. Perhaps more importantly, the Panthers are also moving on from franchise quarterback Cam Newton, replacing him with Teddy Bridgewater.

With the seventh pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Panthers will likely be out of contention for taking one of the top quarterbacks, so getting Bridgewater was crucial. Now, the Panthers have some critical needs to fill in the draft. Chief among them is finding a replacement for star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who retired after the season. The Panthers also need to add talent on the defensive line and at cornerback.

For Rhule, this is not going to be a quick turnaround following a 5-11 season. Fortunately, Bradley Smith of Cat Scratch Reader is here in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft acting as general manager to get some help.

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Smith: After losing Vernon Butler, Dontari Poe, and Gerald McCoy in free agency, the Panthers need to rebuild their interior defensive line, and it makes perfect sense to start with a top-notch prospect like Brown.

The only two defensive tackles currently on Carolina’s roster are Kawann Short and Woodrow Hamilton, so the Panthers absolutely need some depth there. It’s not a bad idea to try to improve 2019’s NFL-worst run defense by solidifying their defensive interior with the No. 7 pick.

New Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has said numerous times that he wants players who can be “multiple,” and Brown provides that quality by being able to line up along the defensive line in both even and odd fronts. His versatility would make him a key cog on the Panthers’ defensive line, while also shoring up one of their worst performing units from last season and instantly upgrading them from terrible to respectable.

Analysis: The way this draft has played out, this is by far the most obvious choice to make for the Panthers. Brown is one of the elite players in this draft, so there’s actually some value in getting him with the seventh pick.

Brown can do just about everything you want in an interior defensive lineman, and he should be able to contribute in a big way early in his career. With his size and power, Brown is the type of defensive tackle who pairs nicely with the gap-shooting Short. The Auburn product is often compared to Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles, and if he can come close to living up to being that type of player he’s well worth a top-10 pick.

Top five remaining players:

  • 7. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
  • 9. Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
  • 10. Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
  • 11. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
  • 12. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Our second pick of the day in the 14th annual SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft is coming up at 11 a.m. ET with Seth Cox from Revenge of the Birds checking in with the pick for the Arizona Cardinals.


What grade do you give the pick of Brown by the Panthers?

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