The 2014 NFL Draft will officially begin May 8, but the draft will hypothetically take place countless times in the months leading up to that fateful night.
In off-limits war rooms at team headquarters around the NFL, decision-makers will conduct a massive amount of mocks to prepare for every plausible scenario that will play out before their picks. And on message boards throughout the football world, fans will debate to the death what player they think – or hope – their favorite team will pick.
In media circles, mock drafts have become a cottage industry. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay virtually make a living off their "big boards" on ESPN, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone, it seems, mocks the first round these days.
As the draft process moves forward, with the NFL Scouting Combine now in the rear-view mirror and pro days and private workouts cranking into full gear, the prognosticators inevitably change their minds. In the weeks leading up to draft day, Panthers.com will revisit some of the mock drafts out there and provide our take on their take.
Here's our first look at who some observers think the Panthers will choose with their first-round pick, the No. 28 selection overall.
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
T Morgan Moses, Virginia
When Brooks, a former Panthers scout and North Carolina wide receiver, sat down with Panthers.com at the NFL Combine, he was touting Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjai for Carolina's first pick. That was even before longtime left tackle Jordan Gross retired, but it also was before Kouandjai failed to impress at the combine.
Moses seems to be slowly working his way into first-round consideration – Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com also projects the Panthers to take him. However, not everyone is off the Kouandjai bandwagon as three of the other four mockers at CBSSports.com project the Panthers to take him. Both are mountain-like men, with Moses the smaller of the two at 6-6, 314 pounds, and it makes sense that mockers would see the Panthers going for a hog mollie.
Evan Silva, Rotoworld.com
TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
While some Panthers fans might cross their fingers that Niklas' teammate at Notre Dame - tackle Zack Martin - is still around come pick No. 28, Silva is among the first to suggest the Panthers could draft a tight end in the first round.
Eric Ebron of North Carolina, the top tight end on most boards, will likely be gone by the time the Panthers pick. Niklas is considered part of a second tier – along with Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington and Jace Amaro of Texas Tech – that could be available when the Panthers are on the clock. Niklas, the nephew of Hall of Fame tackle Bruce Matthews, played just one year at tight end after previously playing defense. He does have an intriguing mix of size, speed and strength and could be a nice complement to
Chris Burke, SI.com
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Not surprisingly, wide receiver is a hot spot among Panthers mockers, and Cooks is a hot name right now. Built much like Steve Smith, Sr., Cooks impressed at the NFL Combine with a 4.33 in the 40, the second-fastest time behind Kent State running back Dri Archer. He also recorded the fastest time in the 60-yard shuttle since extensive records were kept beginning in 2006 and matched the fastest time in the 20-yard shuttle. Cooks was impressive between the white lines in 2013 as well, piling up 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
Charlie Campbell, WalterFootball.com
WR Odell Beckham, Louisiana State
Beckham is similarly sized to Cooks and did it all for the Tigers while producing a school record 2,222 all-purpose yards in 2013. Beckham's game against Alabama-Birmingham showed off all his strengths, when he returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a touchdown and a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in addition to catching three touchdown passes.
Campbell went onto predict the Panthers' first four selections, projecting Nevada guard/tackle Joel Bitonio in the second round, Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the third round and Southern California tight end Xavier Grimble in the fourth. Campbell said it all in his projection of Beckham: "The Panthers could go a lot of directions."
That's what makes this whole process so fun to track.