The Carolina Panthers are in the middle of a rebuilding phase and were hoping to capitalize on the draft to speed up that process. After being 0-8 in close games, Matt Rhule and Panthers might only need a couple tweaks to get them over the hump. Carolina made five trades in the draft, for a total of 11 picks. This Panthers draft breakdown will assess how well they satisfied their team needs and how they stack up in 2021.
Round 1 – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Picking at #8 overall, the Panthers took a physical corner in Jaycee Horn to upgrade their secondary. Horn is one of the best defenders in the draft and may be better in man coverage than Patrick Surtain II. He is strong and explosive with versatility to play inside or outside. He excels against bigger receivers and may find success against those in his division, such as Michael Thomas and Mike Evans. There was an opportunity to select Rashawn Slater, a potential left tackle for Darnold, but Horn was the right pick. The departure of Rasul Douglas and Corn Elder this offseason left the cornerback room thin. Although They signed A.J. Bouye for additional depth, he is 30 and coming off one of his worst performing seasons.
Round 2 – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Carolina added a playmaker to the offense which was something they needed after failing to re-sign Curtis Samuel. Samuel was huge for the team in 2020 as he took on a bigger role in the offense after the Christian McCaffrey injury. Terrace Marshall Jr. may not have as much versatility as Samuel, but he is more than capable of helping to replace that production. He reunites with Joe Brady, who was his offensive coordinator in 2019. In that season, Marshall Jr. scored 13 touchdowns. He can play on the outside or in the slot and can run the full route tree. He’s not a blazer, but he has a big catch radius and was the main deep threat for LSU in 2020 before opting out. The Panthers received great value getting Marshall Jr. in the second.
Round 4 – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
The Panthers had a few picks that can be considered steals in the draft, but I believe drafting Chuba Hubbard was their biggest one. With Mike Davis signing with the Falcons, Carolina needed to replace his production and plan to do that with Hubbard. He was a Heisman finalist in 2019 and was seen as a top prospect when he was expected to declare for the 2020 draft. He was compared to Jonathan Taylor and JK Dobbins as running backs with first round potential. Although his 2020 numbers did not mirror his 2019 production, he provides flexibility for the Panthers. Hubbard has a similar skillset to McCaffrey which allows Joe Brady to utilize him in the same role. It gives the team a tandem to rotate seamlessly to lessen McCaffrey’s workload and keep him fresh throughout the season.
The Panthers had a solid draft and succeeded at filling holes in multiple positions. Carolina stacked the offensive line with Brady Christensen, who can compete for the starting left tackle job. They also picked up Deonte Brown, who is a solid run blocker at guard. The Panthers then added defensive line depth with Daviyon Nixon. They also added versatility to the offense with Shi Smith.
My only issue with Caorlina’s draft is that they failed to address the safety position. They released Tre Boston and did not add any reliable depth at the position. Jeremy Chinn had a phenomenal rookie season, but he plays better in the box. Juston Burris is the starter now, but he has not proven to be reliable. His 2020 film shows his unreliability and explains his PFF coverage grade of 59.5. They need to add one of the remaining free agents who can compete with Burris for the center field role. Overall, Carolina’s draft was really good, but not great. I believe their draft falls in line with Mel Kiper Jr.’s grade of a B. They missed on a safety, but had great picks that will contribute immediately. The Panthers have talent, but may be a few pieces away from being competitive in the NFC South.