Saturday, July 20, 2024

Carolina Panthers 2024 NFL draft picks: Bryce Young gets help with WR Xavier Legette, RB Jonathan Brooks

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 2024 NFL draft (ESPN, ABC, ESPN App) began Thursday night in Detroit and will wrap up on Saturday.

ESPN will provide pick-by-pick analysis of each of the Carolina Panthers‘ selections as they are made.

A look at each of Carolina’s scheduled selections:

Round 1, No. 32 overall: Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina (via Buffalo)

My take: Coach Dave Canales said it best: Legette brings versatility. The Panthers absolutely fell in love with Legette’s ability to make plays all over the field, from catching passes to jet sweeps to kick returns. That versatility at a skill position is something Bryce Young didn’t have last season, so this adds a unique weapon to take pressure off the second-year quarterback. He is also big (6-foot-1, 221 pounds) and fast (4.39 40), unlike any other Carolina receiver. He’s a perfect fit for what Canales wants to create with the pass and run games.

Will he start as a rookie?: While Canales said Legette has a ways to go, his versatility should put him on the field with starters Diontae Johnson and Adam Thielen. And he should get the nod over Jonathan Mingo, who was inconsistent at best as a rookie last year. The versatility that Canales “loves” is something they want to build around offensively.

Key stat: Legette had 10 catches on throws of 30-plus air yards last season at South Carolina, tied for the second-most in FBS. The Panthers had one reception on throws of 30-plus air yards last season, the fewest in a season since the Bengals had zero in 2020.


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Jonathon Brooks’ NFL draft profile

Check out some of the top highlights from Texas RB Jonathon Brooks.

Round 2, No. 46 (from Rams): Jonathan Brooks, RB, Texas

My take: As much as Canales has said he’s excited about backs Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders, he obviously believed the running game needed an upgrade. You don’t take a back in the second round unless you plan to use him, although Brooks may need time to fully recover from ACL surgery that caused him to miss the final three games last season. He’s a playmaker who has a nose for the end zone (10 touchdowns on 187 carries last season), and general manager Dan Morgan said he was looking for guys who can score.

Key stat: At time of his injury, Brooks was sixth in FBS in rushing yards (1,139) and had broken or evaded 63 tackles, second most in the FBS at that point. He also had 11 rushes of 20-plus yards, including four for touchdowns. The Panthers had nine total rushes of 20-plus yards and one touchdown in 2020. He’s dynamic, something the Panthers haven’t had since trading Christian McCaffrey.


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Trevin Wallace’s NFL draft profile

Look back at some of the best plays from Trevin Wallace at Kentucky this past season.

Round 3, No. 72: Trevin Wallace, ILB, Kentucky

My take: Morgan entered the draft looking for “dawg mentality” and he got that in Wallace. “Dawg mentality means you don’t care if you go hurt somebody,” Wallace said. “You don’t go in there soft. I want you to be scared of me.” Wallace isn’t necessarily a long-term replacement for 30-year-old Shaq Thompson, but his ability to cover the field side-to-side and with speed gives him the potential to do that. Give him a year or so behind Thompson and Josey Jewell and he could prove to be a Day 2 steal.

What we’re hearing about Wallace: Morgan said Wallace’s ceiling is “really high.” He didn’t take Wallace necessarily to replace Thompson but to learn from him. He should get plenty of playing time on special teams and compete for the third inside linebacker spot behind Thompson and Jewell.


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Ja’Tavion Sanders’ NFL draft profile

Check out some of the top highlights from Texas TE Ja’Tavion Sanders.

My take: Definitely an upgrade at a position that quarterback Young could have used some help from during his rookie season. Canales has spoken highly of Tommy Tremble, but he’s not the dynamic pass-catching tight end that Sanders can become. Sanders had 99 receptions in three seasons, tops for a tight end in Texas history. He could pose problems for defenses, like Greg Olsen did during the development of quarterback Cam Newton. This was a no-brainer at this point.

Key stat: Young had an NFL-worst 44.8 Total QBR last season when targeting the tight end last season. His tight ends combined for 59 catches, the fifth fewest in the NFL. If you look at most of the successful teams in the NFL, you’ll find a dynamic pass-catching tight end is a common denominator. This was 100 percent a pick to make Young better.


Round 5, No. 157: Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State

My take: A definite need for depth at a position where injuries have hurt the past few years. Smith-Wade will be a backup and special teamer at best this season. He offers speed (4.54 40) and nose for the football that GM Dan Morgan wants. He’s coming off a soft-tissue injury that forced him to miss the final five games and is more of a project at this point. Nickel, where he had two interceptions in the Senior Bowl, may be his future in the NFL.


Round 6, No. 200: Jaden Crumedy, DT, Mississippi State

My take: This is totally a depth move. His ability to push the pocket is what Carolina will look for out of him in its 3-4 scheme. He likely won’t be a threat to start, but he has the flexibility and size (6-4, 301) to play inside or out. Depth behind a solid starting three is key here.


Round 7, No. 240 (from Pittsburgh): Michael Barrett, LB, Michigan

My take: Barrett is undersized at 5-11, 233 pounds, but he has a nose for the football and brings a physicality to the game that makes up for his lack of size. Barrett should get a chance to contribute immediately, at least on special teams.

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