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After talking with Cleveland about Baker Mayfield, Panthers trade up for Matt Corral


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The Panthers were connected with Baker Mayfield in varying degrees throughout Friday night … right until they traded up for Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral.

Carolina traded this year’s fourth-round pick (No. 137) and next year’s third-round selection to New England to take Corral with the 94th pick, giving them a rookie quarterback to compete with the embattled Sam Darnold and presumably ending their pursuit of Mayfield.

The Panthers began Friday without a pick in the second or third round, and watched as no quarterbacks were taken in the second. After Desmond Ridder (74th, Atlanta) and Malik Willis (86th, Tennessee) went off the board in the third, the Panthers eventually made their move.

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Introduction: Coral’s twitchy scrambles, and the willingness to churn for yards after contact, provided a gritty edge to the Rebels’ third 10-win season since 1971. But he produced his second straight 3,300-plus yard passing campaign, making difficult downfield throws to complement a steady dose of RPOs. Ole Miss finished top-six nationally in total offense both years that Corral started, though some scouts question whether Lane Kiffin’s system translates to the NFL.

Corral used the predraft interview process to persuade detractors.

“There were quite a few concepts that were very similar to what we had at Ole Miss,” he said. “Specifically in our situational downs — third down, fourth down and our shot plays — a lot of them were concepts taken from the NFL. So when (teams) would show me these concepts, I would translate it to what we did at Ole Miss and it was the same exact thing, same exact read.”

How he fits: The Panthers made no secret throughout the offseason that they planned to add another quarterback, with general manager Scott Fitterer telling Darnold there was a good chance there would be another QB on the roster by the end of the weekend. Corral is the third quarterback on the roster, joining Darnold and P.J. Walker, and will have a chance to compete for the starting job as a rookie, provided he can smoothly transition to more of a pro-style offense.

Second guess? The Panthers did extensive work on all five of the top quarterbacks in the draft, and some fans and media thought they should have drafted Willis, a charismatic athlete with a big upside, but someone who will need a year or two to develop. Corral played in a heavy RPO offense under Kiffin, and Rhule said he would probably need some time to both grow his game and his frame, which is on the lean side at 6-2 and 212 pounds. There are some durability questions with Corral, who injured his ankle in the Sugar Bowl and wasn’t able to work out at the combine. Corral also has some off the-field baggage, including a fight with Wayne Gretzky’s son (Tristan) that played a part in Corral switching high schools in southern California. Corral, who has talked publicly about battling depression, has dealt with a “multitude of issues, including alcohol and related issues,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Friday during the draft broadcast. “He has had unreliable behavior off the field and he really, really struggled in some interviews with teams.”

Rookie impact: The way Rhule talked Friday, it sounds like the Panthers aren’t going to rush Corral. As a third-round pick rather than a first-rounder, Rhule said Corral wouldn’t feel any “pressure” to play immediately. The fact that the Panthers still have Darnold — and his guaranteed $18.8 million salary — allows them to give Corral time to learn the offense and get comfortable in Ben McAdoo’s system. Rhule made it clear that Darnold will go to training camp as the starter.

Depth-chart impact: The Panthers have had three quarterbacks on the roster in each of Rhule’s first two seasons, and Darnold and Corral are locks. Whether Carolina keeps Walker likely will depend on their needs at other position groups.

Fast evaluation: Corral had an erratic pro day performance, with a lot of balls hitting the ground at the Rebels’ indoor facility. But he showed off what most draft analysts consider to be the quickest release of any of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Corral has good instincts, toughness and a willingness to sacrifice his body while leaving the pocket, which he’ll need to limit if he wants to survive in the NFL.

(Photo: Kevin Langley / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)





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