Carolina Panthers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss – Round 2
After trading D.J. Moore to move up for the No. 1-overall pick, Carolina had a hole at wide receiver. The Panthers added some veterans in Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, but they still needed some long-term weapons for new franchise quarterback Bryce Young. With their selection in the second round, the Panthers came away with an underrated prospect who could be a nice weapon for Young over many seasons to come.

Mingo should be possessional wideout in the NFL who is a valuable contributor in the short to intermediate part of the field. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder shows quality route-running technique, and he is a competitive receiver who fights for the football. Mingo tracks the ball well, uses late hands, and is adept at making catches over defensive backs. He has good size and is able to use his build to shield defenders from the football. After the catch, Mingo runs well and is able to add yardage while showing some strength to break tackles. He shows some good body control along the sideline to stay in bounds while reeling in passes with close coverage. Mingo is a gritty and competitive wideout who has a nose for the end zone.

Mingo has a good, but not great, skill set, and as a result, he might end up being a very good No. 2 receiver rather than a true No. 1. However, Carolina could add more weapons in the years to come, with Mingo being a solid starter to help Young as a possessional wideout. It would not surprise me if Mingo emerges as a solid starter as soon as his rookie season.

2022: Ikem Ekownu, OT
2021: Terrace Marshall Jr, WR
2020: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE
2019: Brian Burns, DE
2018: D.J. Moore, WR
2017: Curtis Samuel, WR
2016: Daryl Worley, CB
2015: Shaq Thompson, LB
2014: Trai Turner, G
2013: Kawann Short, DT

Most Likely To Bust

D.J. Johnson, OLB, Oregon – Round 3
The Panthers have one of the best edge rushers in the NFL with Brian Burns; he was a nice parting gift from the Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney regime. However, Carolina could use more edge rush to go with Burns. The selection of Johnson in the third round made sense in terms of filling a need, but Johnson is going to need development for the NFL.

The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Johnson was inconsistent in college and did not seem to play up to his potential. His best season came in 2022 for Oregon when he recorded six sacks with 8.5 tackles for a loss and 39 tackles. Johnson needs to develop his pass-rushing moves for the NFL and improve his ability to get off blocks. Of Carolina’s early-round picks, he seemed to have the most bust potential.

2022: Matt Corral, QB
2021: Brady Christensen, OT
2020: Jeremy Chinn, S
2019: Will Grier, QB
2018: Rashaan Gaulden, CB
2017: Daeshon Hall, DE
2016: James Bradberry, DB
2015: Devin Funchess, WR
2014: Kelvin Benjamin, WR
2013: Edmund Kugbila, G

Potential Boom Pick

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama – Round 1
The Panthers have been desperate at the quarterback position for many years now. Former head coach Matt Rhule jettisoned Cam Newton for Teddy Bridgewater, tried Sam Darnold as the starter, went back to Newton, and then tried Baker Mayfield as the starter. Those players, along with P.J. Walker, proved not to be the answer, so Carolina made the bold decision to move up from the No. 9-overall pick of the draft to No. 1 overall in order to take Bryce Young. They gave up alot the resources to get Young, and it is a big risk, but it definitely could pay off because Young is a special quarterback prospect with the potential to be a boom pick.

Young is superb and very advanced as a passer, displaying excellent instincts and feel. With impressive intelligence, Young knows where all his receivers and check-down options are, which makes him very dangerous at working all levels of the field. Young’s decision-making is very advanced, and he will skillfully avoid turnovers and not be reckless with the football.

Young is an accurate quarterback who can lace some beautiful passes into tight windows to beat good coverage. With timing and precision, Young does a superb job of hitting his receivers on the run and leading them to rack up lots of yards after the catch. Many quarterbacks in college fail to demonstrate Young’s confidence to throw into tight windows, much less his skill at doing it. Young is an an accurate passer in the short to intermediate part of the field, and he has excellent ball placement while throwing the deep ball. Young is an astute and dangerous point guard who can distribute the ball to rip up a defense.

While Young does not have an elite cannon like a Josh Allen, he has a capable arm that can make all the throws required. Young is short, but he sees the field well, and his knowledge of where his receivers will be leads to him doing a good job of finding the open target. Young is very poised and calm in the pocket. On top of his pocket composure, Young has ice in his veins for crunch time, and he is superb in the fourth quarter, making tremendous plays in the clutch.

On top of his passing ability, Young is a good athlete who offers dangerous mobility and superb escapability. He does a nice job of climbing the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield while getting pressured, and throwing well on the run. When plays break down, Young can run for yardage to move the chains, but he wisely looks to throw while scrambling. With his mobility and feet to run around, Young is capable to make plays off script and ad lib to create big plays.

Young (5-11, 194) is everything the NFL is looking for in a quarterback except for his weight and height. If he were a little taller and thicker, teams would have viewed Young similar to how they viewed quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Trevor Lawrence. Even with the size and durability concerns, Young was the consensus top quarterback prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft over players who were better physical specimens like C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. It would not surprise me if Young manages to stay healthy and ends up being a boom pick for Carolina.

2022: None
2021: Jaycee Horn, CB
2020: Derrick Brown, DT
2019: Greg Little, OT
2018: Donte Jackson, CB
2017: Christian McCaffrey, RB
2016: Vernon Butler, DT
2015: Darryl Williams, OL
2014: Kony Ealy, DE
2013: Star Lotulelei, DT

Future Depth Player

Jammie Robinson, DB, Florida State – Round 5
Carolina added a nice depth player with Robinson in the fifth round. At Florida State, Robinson was a steady producer, making 99 tackles as a senior while playing safety. He had solid seasons in previous years, including 84 tackles and four interceptions in 2021. Sources from other teams felt that Robinson (5-11, 191) was a good player, but undersized. They felt his best fit could come as a slot cornerback in the NFL. Robinson is small for a pro safety, but I think he could be a good game-day backup to help provide depth at nickel corner and safety. Robinson also could be a special teams contributor. While he may not have the physical skill set to be an NFL starter, Robinson could be a good contributor behind Carolina’s starters.

2022: Brandon Smith, LB
2021: Chuba Hubbard, RB
2020: Stantley Thomas-Oliver, CB
2019: Christian Miller, LB
2018: Ian Thomas, TE
2017: Corn Elder, CB
2016: Zach Sanchez, CB
2015: Cameron Artis-Payne, RB
2014: Tre Boston, S
2013: Kenjon Barner, RB

Walt’s 2023 NFL Draft Grades:

1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama – B+ Grade
This can’t be graded poorly because the Panthers finally have a franchise quarterback for the first time since Cam Newton’s first stint with the team. However, it worries me that Carolina selected Bryce Young when the coaches preferred C.J. Stroud instead. Young is a terrific quarterback prospect, but he has some major injury concerns because of his Kyler Murray-type build.

39. Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss – B+ Grade
The Panthers overpaid Adam Thielen and also signed D.J. Chark, but they still needed a No. 1 receiver. Jonathan Mingo could qualify as such. He’s a huge receiver and a great route runner. I would have preferred Jalin Hyatt, but I still like this pick.

80. D.J. Johnson, DE, Oregon – C+ Grade
Carolina’s pass rush was weaker last year because it lost Haason Reddick. D.J. Johnson could help in that regard. He’s a raw player, but has very explosive ability. I love the upside, but I don’t see why the Panthers needed to trade up for him. He easily could have been available in 13 selections.

114. Chandler Zavala, G, N.C. State – B Grade
Protecting Bryce Young is obviously incredibly important, and the Panthers needed to improve their blocking. Chandler Zavala fits the range as a Round 4-5 prospect, so this is fine selection.

145. Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State – B Grade
Jammie Robinson is great in run support, but can be lost in coverage. The Panthers have struggled to stop the run in recent years, so this pick makes sense.

2023 NFL Draft Team Grade: B. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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