Potential Playmaking Targets for the Carolina Panthers in the 2024 NFL Draft

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Looking back at The Athletic’s big board pieces on the Panthers leading up to last year’s draft, most of the focus was trained on the quarterbacks who Scott Fitterer and Frank Reich were believed to be targeting with the No. 1 pick.

The attention this year has shifted to what receivers and tight ends the Panthers could be eyeing as playmaking targets for the quarterback they chose with that No. 1 pick. Dan Morgan, who replaced Fitterer as general manager, has already given Bryce Young a new receiver in trading for former Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson in March.

But most analysts and media members, including this one, believe this is a double-down situation. As in, Morgan needs to add at least one more playmaker in the draft, and preferably more. Complicating matters is the fact that the Panthers don’t own a first-round pick, as you may have read once or twice since they wrapped up a 2-15 season in 2023.


NFL Draft 2024 ‘The Beast’ Guide: Dane Brugler’s scouting reports and player rankings

They also have other positional needs that are not inconsequential, which is why some analysts and media members, including this one, believe Morgan will strongly consider trading back early in the second round for additional picks.

As such, we’re limiting this big board to Day 2 targets for the Panthers, who will more than likely take in Day 1 of the draft on April 25 as merely interested observers. In compiling this list, we’ll lean heavily on Dane Brugler’s “The Beast.” Because at more than 300 pages and 380,000 words, why wouldn’t you?

The Panthers currently have three Day 2 picks: 33, 39 (via the Giants in the Brian Burns trade) and 65.

Let’s big board.

Wide receivers

Ladd McConkey, Georgia

The fast but diminutive McConkey has become a Panthers’ favorite among the mock draft crowd. And for good reason: Despite fairly pedestrian numbers for the Bulldogs, McConkey is very quick in and out of his cuts and can separate, an attribute that was largely missing among the Panthers’ receivers in 2023.

Adonai Mitchell, Texas

At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Mitchell is appreciably bigger than McConkey and ran a slightly faster 40 at the combine. The two were teammates at Georgia, where Mitchell caught the go-ahead touchdown in the 2021 national championship game. Mitchell had a big season in his one-year stop at Texas, leading the Big 12 with 11 receiving touchdowns and averaging 15.4 yards a catch.

Keon Coleman, Florida State

Coleman is a long athlete who can jump. And in this age of specialization, the 6-3, 213-pounder spent parts of two seasons on Tom Izzo’s basketball team at Michigan State before concentrating on football. Coleman, whose cousin is Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb, uses his size and strength well to make contested catches, some of which were the result of lacking the elite speed to separate.

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

When we had Legette going to the Panthers at 39 in our latest mock, a lot of readers criticized the pick and essentially labeled him a clone of Jonathan Mingo, who the Panthers took 39th last year and then watched him struggle with his route running. Legette is a bigger receiver than Mingo. But he’s a more versatile player whose kick return skills should not be discounted with the NFL’s new rules.


This big SEC WR — with ties and similarities to Deebo Samuel — is ready for NFL jump

Xavier Worthy, Texas

From a purely speed standpoint, no one can top Worthy, who set a combine record with 4.21-second clocking in the 40. But Worthy has a slight frame (5-11, 165) and could have difficulty defeating press coverage. But it’s hard to argue with his college production: He had three seasons with at least 60 receptions and finished in the top five in Longhorns’ history in receiving yards (2,755) and TD catches (26).

Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky

The 5-10, 207-pound Corley played 91.6 percent of his college snaps in the slot (shoutout Brugler and “The Beast”), and has the look of a gadget-type receiver with big yards-after-catch potential rather than a traditional wideout. During his nearly 1,300-yard season in 2022, Corley led all FBS receivers in YAC and forced missed tackles.

In his last three seasons at Western Kentucky, Malachi Corley caught 73, 101 and 79 passes. (Jim Dedmon / USA Today)

Troy Franklin, Oregon

Franklin was Bo Nix’s favorite target in 2023 when he turned in the most prolific receiving season in Oregon history. Franklin, who boasts a nice size-speed combination, posted video-game numbers for the Ducks on the way to single-season, school records for catches (81), receiving yards (1,383), receiving TDs (14) and 100-yard games (eight).

Jalen McMillan, Washington

After a 1,000-yard season in 2022 when he pulled in 79 passes from Michael Penix Jr., McMillan’s production fell off last year due to injuries and a predominance of underneath routes. Per Brugler, 71 percent of McMillan’s catches came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. But the former baseball outfielder can go get the ball in the air when given the chance.

Brenden Rice, USC

Like McMillan, the Panthers reportedly scheduled a pre-draft visit for Rice. The son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had a nose for the end zone (like his dad) in college, leading the Trojans with 12 receiving touchdowns last fall. But he doesn’t have top-end speed and is not an exceptional route runner. Brugler views Rice and McMillan as third- or fourth-round prospects.

Tez Walker, North Carolina

The Charlotte native had a nomadic college experience, bouncing from school to school and enduring an NCAA eligibility saga before finally being cleared to play for the Tar Heels last fall. Walker made the most of his brief time in Chapel Hill, with seven receiving TDs and a 17.0 yards-per-catch average in eight games. Walker has impressive, straight-line speed but had a total of 12 drops the past two seasons.


Panthers’ 7-round mock, 2.0: A trade, a new top pick and a WR with a familiar last name


Cooper DeJean, Iowa

It feels like the Panthers haven’t had a dynamic, game-changing corner since Josh Norman. But DeJean, a member of The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List 2023, both looks and plays the part. DeJean returned three of his seven interceptions with the Hawkeyes for touchdowns and was the Big Ten’s punt returner of the year in 2023. He’s coming off a broken leg that ended his season in November.

Cooper DeJean picked off two passes last season and returned this punt for a touchdown against Michigan State. (Jeffrey Becker / USA Today)

Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

McKinstry practiced with the Crimson Tide’s basketball team for a few months after enrolling at Alabama in 2021 before sticking with football. Good choice. The polished cover corner led the SEC with 16 pass breakups as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior. Brugler called McKinstry a “long, smooth athlete” with a high football IQ who reminds him of former Panthers CB James Bradberry.

Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

Lassiter, once viewed as a first-round pick, saw his stock drop after a slow (4.64) 40 time at his pro day. Lassiter didn’t get his hands on many passes as an outside corner and some teams view him as a nickel-only, per Brugler. But he has good instincts and didn’t allow more than two catches in a game all of 2023.

Max Melton, Rutgers

The 5-11, 187-pound Melton has explosive speed and a history of production, racking up eight interceptions and 30 pass breakups over his final three seasons at Rutgers. He also has a knack for making big plays on special teams: His three blocked punts in 2022 were the most in FBS.

Other positions

Payton Wilson, LB, N.C. State

Wilson was a highly productive player when healthy for the Wolfpack and has earned the approval of Luke Kuechly, who has spent time with Wilson. But Wilson has a lengthy injury history that will scare off some teams and will be 24 when the draft starts.

Trey Benson, RB, Florida State

Dave Canales is committed to the running game and might want a new back as a part of that. Benson led the Seminoles in rushing the past two seasons after transferring from Oregon.

Jonathon Brooks, RB, Texas

After sitting most of his first two seasons with the Longhorns, Brooks was a starter in 2023 before tearing his ACL and missing the last three games. He averaged 6.1 yards a carry and had 10 TDs before getting hurt.

Scoop City Newsletter

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up

Free, daily NFL updates direct to your inbox. Sign up


Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas

There’s a drop-off in the tight end group after Georgia’s Brock Bowers, although Sanders is an intriguing prospect because of his size and production. His 54 receptions in 2022 set a Texas record for a tight end.

Theo Johnson, TE, Penn State

Johnson (6-6, 259) only averaged 10 yards per reception as a senior, but was a red zone weapon with a team-leading seven TD catches for the Nittany Lions.

Austin Booker, edge, Kansas

Booker played in only two games in two seasons at Minnesota before transferring to Kansas, where he was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after leading the Jayhawks in sacks (eight), tackles for loss (12) and forced fumbles (two).

(Top photos of Keon Coleman, Troy Franklin, Ladd McConkey: Don Juan Moore, Brandon Sloter, Jeffrey Vest / Getty Images)

2024-04-12 15:38:45
#Panthers #NFL #draft #big #board #targets #including #Bryce #Young


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *