The 2022 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 28. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position is in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2022 NFL Draft hub.

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What Picks do the Carolina Panthers have in 2022

The Carolina Panthers have six picks.

Round 1 (6)
Round 4 (137)
Round 5 (144)
Round 5 (149)
Round 6 (199)
Round 7 (242)

Carolina Panthers Top POSITIONS OF NEED

  1. QB
  2. LT
  3. EDGE

Carolina Panthers Strength of Schedule, 2022

The Carolina Panthers have the 17th easiest NFL strength of schedule for the 2022 NFL season.

2022 NFL strength of schedule ranked by team

Carolina Panthers Offense

By Rich Hribar

QUARTERBACK

Sam Darnold
Phillip Walker

Between Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and Phillip Walker, the Panthers were dead last in expected points added via passing in 2021 (-80.6 EPA). 

They ranked 32nd in team completion percentage (58.1%), 31st in touchdown rate (2.3%), 31st in interception rate (3.5%), and 31st in yards per pass attempt (6.0 Y/A). 

The team picked up Darnold’s fifth-year option after trading for him last season, so they are on the hook for his $18.8 million cap charge this season in full no matter how things play out moving forward.

They could still potentially make a trade for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo over the remainder of the offseason. 

They also have the sixth pick in this draft, but without another pick until the fourth round, Carolina will only have one bite at taking a quarterback in the draft, which is that top pick. 

RUNNING BACK

Christian McCaffrey
D’Onta Foreman
Chuba Hubbard
Darius Bradwell
Spencer Brown

Christian McCaffrey was snakebit once again in 2021, playing in just seven games, with two of those games being ones in which he left early, playing 30% and 36% of the snaps. 

McCaffrey has now played in 10 games the past two seasons due to ankle, thigh, hamstring, and shoulder injuries. 

While I remain largely injury agnostic (and McCaffrey has had a few injuries that are just outright back luck), there may be a time when the Panthers weigh in his missed time and decide to pull back on McCaffrey’s workload somewhat when he does play. 

That said, McCaffrey is still the engine of this offense. He is signed through 2025 with dead cap hits of $26.9 million, $18.3 million, and $10.8 million over the next three seasons. 

Carolina brought in added backfield help by signing D’Onta Foreman on a one-year deal. Foreman should immediately vault Chuba Hubbard, who was second-to-last in rushing yards below expectation (-122 yards) as a rookie per Next Gen Stats.

WIDE RECEIVER

D.J. Moore
Robby Anderson
Terrace Marshall
Rashard Higgins
Brandon Zylstra
Shi Smith
Stephen Sullivan
Aaron Parker
C.J. Saunders

Carolina wideouts collectively received 20.2 targets per game (14th) but ranked 18th in catches per game (11.7) and 22nd in yardage per game (133.1) attached to anemic quarterback play. Just 69.9% of the Carolina targets to wide receivers were deemed catchable per Pro Football Focus, the lowest rate for a wide receiver group in the NFL (league average rate was 74.4%).

The team inked 2018 first-rounder D.J. Moore to an extension this offseason.

It finally looked as if we were going to have our Moore breakout last season when he opened the season with 30-398-3 over the opening four games. But he inevitably was caught up once again in the riptide of an offense with subpar quarterback play once Darnold’s deal with the devil in September expired.  Moore had 30 targets last season in which the incompletion reason was credited as an inaccurate throw per TruMedia, which was the most in the NFL. 

After a breakout in 2020, Robby Anderson was unable to survive the offensive climate in Carolina last season. 

Anderson averaged 5.9 receptions for 68.5 yards per game in 2020, but averaged 3.1 catches for 30.5 yards per game last season. 

Anderson inked an extension offseason that carries dead cap hits of $20.5 million this season and $9.7 million over the next two seasons. 

Carolina selected Terrace Marshall in the second round a year ago, but Marshall was never able to establish footing as a rookie. He ended the season with just 17 catches for 138 yards and no touchdowns. 

Carolina still has 2021 sixth-rounder Shi Smith on the roster while signing Rashard Higgins to a one-year contract to compete with the 2021 rookies. 

TIGHT END

Ian Thomas
Tommy Tremble
Colin Thompson
Giovani Ricci

No team got less out of their tight ends last season than Carolina. The group collectively ranked last in the NFL in targets (72), receptions (45), receiving yards (452), and touchdown receptions (one).

That said, Carolina appears content with the top of the roster here as they signed Ian Thomas to a three-year extension this offseason while still grooming last year’s third-round pick Tommy Tremble.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: Brady Christensen/Cameron Erving/Aaron Monteiro
LG: Pat Elflein/Michael Jordan/Dennis Daley
C: Bradley Bozeman/Sam Tecklenburg
RG: Austin Corbett/Deonte Brown/Mike Horton
RT: Taylor Moton/Austen Pleasants

The Carolina offensive line did not help their issues last year as they ranked 29th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (50%) and 26th in Run Block Win Rate (68%). At Pro Football Focus, they ranked 28th in pass blocking grade while ranking 25th in run blocking grade. 

The Panthers were aggressive here in free agency, signing Austin Corbett and Braley Bozeman to fill rough spots on the interior. 

Bozeman closed 2021 ranking 11th in overall grade among centers per Pro Football Focus. Bozeman will compete with Pat Elflein at center, but both have positional flexibility to play left guard as well. Left guard was a problem area for Carolina a year ago as Michael Jordan allowed a 7.7% pressure rate and was the 79th graded guard per Pro Football Focus. 

Corbett will slot in next to Tyler Moton on the right side, with both players under contract through at least 2024. 

The one remaining red flag here is at left tackle. 

Cameron Erving is only signed for this season. On the field, Erving allowed a 9.5% pressure rate, which ranked 89th among 95 tackles last season to have 100 or more pass blocking snaps. 

The team can move forward with last year’s third round pick Brady Christensen, but Christensen also struggled in that department, allowing a 8.0% pressure rate (79th among the same group) on 311 pass blocking snaps as a rookie.

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Carolina Panthers Defense

By Dan Pizzuta

Interior Defensive Line

Derrick Brown
Matt Ioannidis
Bravvion Roy
Daviyon Mixon
Phil Hoskins
Frank Herron

Over the past two seasons, Derrick Brown 21 quarterback hits and five sacks. In 2021, he ranked 30th in pressure rate among defensive tackles per SIS. That might not exactly be what the Panthers were looking for with the eighth overall pick, but he’s been able to collapse the pocket from the interior.

The Panthers lucked into a Temple Owl getting released by his former team. When Washington parted ways with Matt Ioannidis, Matt Rhule was quick to scoop him up. Ioannidis signed for just a one-year deal but he should be a force inside. He ranked 20th in pressure rate among defensive tackles last year.

Carolina could also see some development from 2020 sixth-round pick Bravvion Roy (31% of snaps) and 2021 fifth-round pick Daviyon Mixon (7.5%).

EDGE

Brian Burns
Yetur Gross-Matos
Marquis Haynes
Darryl Johnson
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
Azur Kamara
Joe Jackson
Austin Larkin

Brian Burns is one of the league’s best young pass rushers. He was a quick winner off the line and ranked 18th among edge rushers in pressure rate last season. Burns will have his fifth-year option picked up for 2023 and a bigger extension should be high on Carolina’s to-do list.

Yetur Gross-Matos was a second-round pick in 2020 but this will be his first shot at extended playing time. He played 32% of the defensive snaps last season backing up Burns and Haason Reddick. Gross-Matos hasn’t completely shined when he’s on the field. His 8% pressure rate would have ranked around 83rd among edge rushers last season if he had enough pass snaps to qualify.

The Panthers could look to solidify the depth and hedge on the development of Gross-Matos by targeting this position in the draft.

Off-ball Linebacker

Shaq Thompson
Cory Littleton
Damien Wilson
Frankie Luvu
Kamal Martin
Julian Stanford

Shaq Thompon played 73% of the snaps while he missed three games, but was all over the field when he was on it. Thompson, who turns 28 years old in late April, is signed through 2023.

Thompson could potentially get more help from traditional linebackers as the Panthers signed Corey Littleton and Damien Wilson in free agency. Littleton was a great all-around linebacker with the Rams and one of the best in coverage, but that never clicked in his two years with the Raiders.

Wilson spent last year with the Jaguars after two with the Chiefs. He had some struggles in coverage (69th at the position in yards allowed per coverage snap), but he can be a better downhill player against the run. 

Cornerback

Jaycee Horn
Donte Jackson
C.J. Henderson
Rashaan Melvin
Keith Taylor
Troy Pride Jr.
Myles Hartsfield
Chris Westry
Stanley Thomas-Oliver
Madre Harper

Jaycee Horn was fantastic when he was on the field, but his rookie season was cut short after just three games. Those early season flashes should be enough optimism for him to break out as a No. 1 corner in his second season.

Donte Jackson was 61st among 93 qualified cornerbacks in Adjusted Yards allowed per coverage snap, which accounts for touchdowns and interceptions. He’s been up and down through his career but the ups have been encouraging. He signed a three-year deal that will keep him under contract through 2024.

A change of scenery didn’t really help C.J. Henderson. Among 113 cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps, Henderson ranked 112th in Adjusted Yards allowed per coverage snap. Keith Taylor ranked 113th.

The Panthers have a ton of options to throw at the cornerback spot along with Horn and Jackson, but it remains to be seen if there is much quality in the quantity.

Safety

Jeremy Chinn
Xavier Woods
Juston Burris
Kenny Robinson
Sean Chandler
Sam Franklin

Jeremy Chinn continued to develop into his do-it-all safety role. He played a majority of his snaps in the box and was an impact defender with five passses defensed, sixth tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits.

Carolina signed Xavier Woods to play as the deep safety on a one-year deal. The Panthers used a single-high shell on the second-highest rate in the league last season (60%) and Woods has shown the ability to handle the responsibilities of a lone deep safety.

There are other intriguing options as depth, which include Juston Burris, who can also spend time in the slot, former XFL standout Kenny Robinson, and Sean Chandler.

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