The following is an excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2024 Football Preview book. In addition to Warren’s deep, detailed write-up on all 32 NFL teams, each chapter features page after page of full-color charts, stats, and heatmaps as well as draft class analysis from Ryan McCrystal. Click here for a full FREE chapter from the 2024 Football Preview.

With 2024 NFL training camps on the horizon, we’re starting to understand how 2024 NFL draft classes will impact each roster this season.

Let’s look at the Carolina Panthers, breaking down the most likely instant-impact rookies from each class, while also providing some insight into why certain early picks may not see the field.

Who are the Carolina Panthers rookies?

  • Xavier Legette — WR — Round 1
  • Jonathon Brooks — RB — Round 2
  • Trevin Wallace — LB — Round 3
  • Ja’Tavion Sanders — TE — Round 4
  • Chau SmithWade — CB — Round 5
  • Jaden Crumedy — DT — Round 6
  • Michael Barrett — LB — Round 7

Carolina Panthers Draft Class Grade:

The Carolina Panthers received a C+ draft grade from Sharp Football.

Which Panthers Rookies Will Make An Impact?

Carolina needed to add more weapons for Bryce Young but made an odd decision to trade up one spot to land Xavier Legette (first round). Legette spent five years at South Carolina, barely seeing any meaningful action until his redshirt senior year. One-year wonders are always risky but never more so than when it’s a fifth-year senior at a skill position. If you have the athletic traits to win as a receiver in the NFL, chances are you’re showcasing that talent before you’re a 22-year-old senior. 

Legette has the size and speed to stretch the field and is a physical runner after the catch on shorter routes. However, his production, even during his breakout 2023 campaign, has been boom or bust. Given his limited route tree at South Carolina 一 37% of his receptions came on curls and screens 一 it may take time before he’s ready for a meaningful role in the NFL. 

Jonathon Brooks (second round) was another big swing. From a value perspective, Brooks came off the board in an appropriate spot, but did this team, with very little chance of competing in 2024, need to upgrade its running back room? The Panthers had far bigger holes to fill, and a rookie running back recovering from an ACL injury does not make them a better team right now.

Once healthy, Brooks should claim the starting job. He brings a nice blend of power and speed to the position but needs to be more decisive as a runner. Accounting for defenders in the box and inside/outside direction of the run, Brooks was stuffed in the backfield 0.2% more often than expected, which ranked 10th in the Big 12. 

Trevin Wallace (third round) is an ascending talent at linebacker who made significant strides during his true junior year in 2023. His anticipation skills against the run could allow him to get on the field on early downs, but his coverage is a work in progress. Shaq Thompson is in the final year of his contract, which could create an opening for Wallace in 2025. 

Carolina hasn’t had any consistent production at tight end since Greg Olsen retired, so there’s a clear path to immediate playing time for Ja’Tavion Sanders (fourth round). Sanders tested poorly but looked more athletic on the field at Texas. Based on route-adjusted data, he generated 3.4% more yards after catch than expected. 

Chau Smith-Wade (fifth round) has battled injuries in recent years but was a productive two-year starter when healthy. Smith-Wade lacks ideal size and length, which could limit him to a role in the slot. However, his ball-hawk production shouldn’t be ignored. Based on route-adjusted data, he generated a ball-hawk rate 58% above expected over the last two years. 

Jaden Crumedy (sixth round) spent six years at Mississippi State and was a starter for five of them. He also tested well at the Combine, which just raises further questions about his lack of production. A 23-year-old with Crumedy’s size and athleticism should have generated more than a 5.9% pressure rate on the interior, which was his career high. 

Michael Barrett (seventh round) is an outlier in every way as a 25-year-old linebacker under 6 feet tall and lacking the elite athletic traits to make up for it. He saw significant special teams action at Michigan early in his career, so he’ll likely be given an opportunity to win a roster spot in that role. 

Carolina added three players who should compete for immediate starting roles in Legette, Brooks, and Sanders. But Legette was a reach at a position of need while Brooks and Sanders were the opposite. Spending two relatively early picks on running back and tight end is not the ideal rebuilding strategy. That said, those three prospects, plus Wallace, could be starters by 2025. So if this class produces four starters, regardless of position, we’ll call it a success.

This analysis continues in the 2024 Football Preview

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Draft Class Analysis for All 32 Teams
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